Vogue: These “Trash Cocktails” Are Made With Actual Garbage—And Are Delicious

Photo: Kyle Goldberg / Courtesy of Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago
Post Date: 
Friday, May 5, 2017
Author: 
Jenny Berg
Photographer: 
Kyle Goldberg

Lime peels aren’t typically the stuff of epiphanies, but they sparked a big idea for Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage. The London-based bartenders met while working at Dandelyan, the cocktail bar at the Mondrian London at Sea Containers. “After juicing citrus for just one evening, we turned around and saw the bin—it was filled with lime husks,” says Ramage. The unassuming peels triggered the aha moment that has since fueled a “Trash Tiki” pop-up concept and a world tour.

“We realized that there’s as much fresh-material waste as glass and packaging waste at bars,” Griffiths says. “We felt we really could do something about the fresh waste.” Sure, lime husks don’t clog landfills. But, it turns out, they’re rather tasty when infused with hibiscus tea, strained, and mixed with a little agave. By encouraging bars to use all ingredients to their fullest potential, the duo hopes to engender more sustainability in the industry.

This revelation came in the fall of 2016, just before the Spirit of Tiki cocktail showcase at the Langham London. “We were sitting there having a whiskey one night and talking about doing it,” recalls Ramage. “We got pretty drunk and committed to the event without really testing any recipes,” says Griffiths, hopping in. And in the cold light of day, it dawned on them: “We realized: ‘Shit, we need to pull this together,’ ” concludes Ramage. Their hastily planned launch helped to birth their punk-style branding. “The [Spirit of Tiki] organizer turned to us and said: ‘So, where’s your sign?’ ” remembers Ramage. “We had our intern grab a can of spray paint and a cardboard box, spray on ‘Trash Tiki,’ and nail it to the wall.”

 Steve Ryan Courtesy of Trash Tiki
Trash Tiki
Photo: Steve Ryan / Courtesy of Trash Tiki

With a trial run under their belts, Griffiths and Ramage traveled to Los Angeles last December to serve their unique brand of “trash” drinks at Harvard & Stone. “That was our real, official launch,” says Griffiths. “And then by mid-January, we were like, ‘Okay, let’s just do a global tour.’ ” In June alone, they’ll host Trash Tiki pop-ups in cities such as Paris and Hong Kong. And in July, they’ll kick off the North American “Anti-Waste Tour” with Fords Gin.

The 10-city tour will stop in New York August 12 to 14, but don’t ask what’s on the menu yet. “We usually email [a host venue] about a week out to say: ‘And, what have you guys got?’ ” Griffiths explains. Though every bar has a core set of ingredients that are destined for the trash—think mint stems and lemon peels—each spot also has unique fixings.

 Steve Ryan Courtesy of Trash Tiki
J.B. Gin Swizzle
Photo: Kyle Goldberg / Courtesy of Broken Shaker at Freehand Chicago

In Los Angeles, a frozen matcha cake from a neighborhood bakery led to a cocktail with a matcha-syrup base. Griffiths and Ramage have also blended day-old almond croissants with boiling water, sugar, and rum to create their own version of orgeat syrup. They use pistachio shells and avocado pits to create infusions, and fermented pineapple rinds to add flavor. The pair freely posts all their recipes online, in the hopes that they’ll inspire other bartenders to reconsider fresh waste.

Another ingredient they champion: gin. “When people think about tiki drinks, they think about these ’80s-style, syrup-thick cocktails,” Griffiths says. “With gin, you get lighter, more delicate flavors.” Not to mention, a more diverse list of cocktails. “So, should you turn up at a tiki bar as someone who doesn’t like rum, you’re not like, ‘What the fuck am I meant to have here, exactly?’ ” Griffiths politely reasons. The dates and venues for the Trash Tiki pop-ups—which, rest assured, will serve both rum and gin drinks—will be shared online.