- I tried a cocktail made of trash.
- Absolut and other companies are promoting sustainability efforts by re-using limes that have been juiced to make a kind of stock.
- This stock doesn’t taste any different than “normal” juice, in my opinion.
- The drink was great.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
The Cosmopolitan is one of America’s favourite cocktails. You know the recipe: triple sec, lime juice, vodka, cranberry juice, and an orange twist. America’s bartenders make millions of cosmos each year, but they often throw away leftover ingredients that can be recycled to make new drinks.
These re-crafted cocktails, made from leftover “trash” are starting to gain traction in eco-conscious bars. I tried one to see what it tasted like and how you can make one at home.
“Think about the life of a lime,” quipped Rico Dynan. Dynan, a veteran bartender turned marketing guru for Absolut Vodka. Together with Absolut’s team, Dynan has spent over a year criss-crossing the globe, urging bartenders in 15 countries to make more out of their leftover ingredients.
“What do we do with the humble lime when we get one? We slice it up, squeeze it, and throw the rest in the trash. It’s incredibly wasteful,” Dynan said.
With a splash, Dynan dropped a bucket full of squeezed lime husks into a pot of boiling water. Before the limes made it to the pot, Dynan said, they were harvested from farms in Central America or the Mediterranean using automated machines. Those machines require fuel and energy, and once they have gathered the limes, they load them onto trucks.
The trucks, usually powered by fossil fuels, make their way to a sorting facility where the less attractive limes are thrown away. Then, the remainder is shipped to a seaport where they are once again transported via fossil fuel-powered cargo ships all over the globe.
By the time they have made it to the grocery store, even more limes have gone bad and been sorted out. That leaves the dozen or so husks sitting in Dynan’s pot, the survivors of perhaps a hundred or so that started the journey together. These limes have been used to muddle drinks or add a splash of acid to your favourite cocktail. “We’re about to do what chefs do,” he says. “We’re going to boil the bones.”
The boiling process takes just a few minutes. With a dash of malic acid, citric acid, and sugar, the process produces a lime stock – or “stuice” – that’s completely reusable as a cooking or cocktail ingredient. Taste-wise, it’s no different than the lime juice you buy in a plastic, fruit-shaped bottle; but it is fresher and free of unnatural preservatives.
Simply put: this is lime juice. It tastes the same as the juice squeezed from each lime moments before. The only real difference is appearance.
“At first, we had a hard time getting bars to adopt this hack,” added Dynan. “They gave us a lot of blow-back about premium ingredients and what not, and that’s b.s. The reality is that the bar industry uses an incredible amount of citrus. Two decades ago, nobody was putting fresh fruit in cocktails. Now, it’s the norm. It has placed an incredible demand on citrus farms, farmers, and the environment.
Food waste accounts for 30-40% of the US food supply, according to the USDA, so using up these kinds of ingredients can have a big impact.
“We challenged bartenders to start using this stuice in their cocktails, and I promise you cannot tell the difference,” Dynan said.
To put Dynan’s theory to the test, I grab a cosmo crafted from the very limes we just boiled – and a little help from the usual key ingredients. “Be careful,” my brain said, “It’s made from trash.”
A second later, I found myself wondering how long it will take before this bar hack becomes an industry-wide norm. Together with Dynan, I sampled cocktails made with fresh-squeezed lime and Absolut’s lime stuice.
If there was a difference in flavour, I couldn’t tell.
But I can tell you that the “trash” cocktails made far better use of our planet’s resources than the fresh ones. I can tell you that Dynan’s team at Absolut is just one of a platoon of companies that are educating bars about the eco-friendly technique.
As for the Swedish vodka-maker, it has recently been designated a carbon neutral distiller in a mission to become the global leader in eco-friendly production.
Absolut’s lime stuice is just one of a handful of hacks that Dynan is carrying around the globe to help bars make more money while reducing their carbon footprint. The trick works with lemons and oranges, too. Making it is a small step with a big impact for anyone who wants to do their part for the environment.
How to make a trash cosmo
Lime stock (citrus husks, malic acid, citric acid, sugar, water. Boiled)
.5 ounce triple Sec
1.5 ounce vodka
.5 ounce cranberry juice
Orange twist, for garnish
Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. Double-strain into chilled cocktail glass and add an orange twist.
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