Take your bar game up a notch with kitchen waste. Fruit peels, leftover coffee powder, even dry flowers can be made into infusions that turn any gathering into a fun cocktail party. Here are seven zero-waste home bar tips using only ugly, less than perfect ingredients, and food scraps.
The Madurai Negroni cocktail
My zero-waste home bar has never been so busy and now almost an apothecary with flavoured tinctures, bitters, gin infusions, and shrubs. I got a packet of this robust, flavourful strong filter coffee from Madurai on my way to Chettinad before the lockdown.
Make the coffee-infused gin
1. 250ml good quality gin, poured into a clean glass bottle for you to try. Label the date of infusing.
2. Add 50 grams leftover coffee powder (dried) from your espresso maker or coffee filter to this bottle, along with 15 grams honey.
3. Store the bottle at room temperature for at least two days for a strong flavour. You could always taste a little and have a cocktail hour or celebrate #WFH
30 ml Infusion
30 ml Campari
30 ml Sweet Vermouth
1 Orange peel for garnish (optional)
1. Add all ingredients in a mixing glass.
2. Add ice and stir until desired chill and dilution is achieved. Do not dilute it too much.
3. Strain and serve.
Mint Julep cocktail
I use a home-made syrup of mint and lime made with leftover mint stems and squeezed limes. Use it for lemonade, club soda, or make juleps. Prepare crushed ice for this, other forms of ice won’t create this drink as its meant to be.
Make the mint-lemon syrup
1. Take 1 litre of water in a saucepan with 500 grams sugar, mint stems, 15-20lime halves without pits.
2. Simmer this for 25 minutes or till the sugar is completely dissolved. Sieve this mixture and allow it to cool.
3. Refrigerate in a clean, dry glass bottle.
60 ml of Bourbon Whiskey
30 ml mint-lime syrup
Mint sprigs for garnish
Lots of crushed ice
1. In a tall glass add the syrup and top it up with crushed ice. Now add the bourbon.
2. Stir this mix gently and make sure the syrup and bourbon are mixed. Top it up again with more crushed ice.
3. Garnish with a nice big sprig of mint and enjoy.
Tepache is a Mexican fermented pineapple drink. A simple technique turns pineapple peels into a rich cordial, ideal for tropical summer drinks and refreshing spritzers. Tepache is made with pineapple, sugar, aromatics of choice (cinnamon, clove, and ginger), and water.
1. Add pineapple scraps to a large glass jar.
2. Add brown sugar and aromatics to taste, and top with water to submerge all parts of the fruit.
3. Close with an airlock lid. After two-three days, you see the carbonation.
4. Strain the liquid and transfer to bottles for a couple more days. After straining the liquid, add fresh water to the pineapple scraps. Muddling the pineapple scraps again draws out maximum flavour.
Hibiscus Bloom infusion
The homemade hibiscus bloom syrup is my favourite thing to use for brunches as it is sweet, tarty, floral, and has an extra zing with such a gorgeous ruby red colour. Add it to your margaritas, rum punches, and daiquiris, or pour over ice and add club soda. Syrup keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
2 cups of water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup of dried hibiscus flower
1 small knob of ginger, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zested
1. Bring water, white sugar, hibiscus, brown sugar, ginger, and lemon zest to a boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer until sugars dissolve and flowers soften about 10 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and steep syrup until flavours combine, about 15 minutes.
3. Strain syrup into a container through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing solids with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
4. Refrigerate the infusion. It will last you for at least two weeks.
Take a tall glass with ice cubes, add 30 ml of the infusion, and top it up with club soda. Garnish with any fruit slice or peel, or herbs of choice.
Use ripe bananas and convert them into a delicious caramelly syrup for tiki cocktails. I cook my banana with brown sugar and dark rum to form a thick syrup for a tropical flavour–use quantities that suit your taste.
Dehydrate herbs and citrus peels
Dehydrated fruits and herbs are easy to keep, and they look a whole lot swankier. I place roundels of orange, lemons, grapefruit, star fruit on a baking tray, with a sprinkle of castor sugar, and put these in the oven at 60-degree Celsius for five to six hours. The sugar crystallises and preserves the fruit, making beautifully coloured garnishes.
When life gives you lemons, don’t just make a lemonade
Peel your citrus before you squeeze the juice, save the rinds to use as garnishes on your drinks later. To keep these fresh for your zero-waste home bar, keep in a jar filled with water.
All images: Courtesy author and Getty