Drinks Doctor: How can I make a sustainable drinks menu?

29 March 2024 by
Drinks Doctor: How can I make a sustainable drinks menu?

Don't throw away the leftover ingredients from your restaurant – use them to feed your drinks menu too, says Nicola Tickle

Our kitchen and bar teams work closely together to ensure every morsel, byproduct, wonky fruit or surplus item is used and made into something delicious for either our food or our drinks menu, rather than waste perfectly good ingredients.

Seemingly hopeless oxidised wines and canned or bottled beers approaching their best before dates are sent to the stove, where they're repurposed and transformed into reductions, vinegars, syrups or marinades.

The key to sustainable, zero-waste drinks is using every part of an ingredient: for example, removing the zest of citrus fruits before juicing, using the peel as a cocktail garnish, macerating them to make punchy syrups, or infusing them into a spirit for an elevated and delicious tipple. Once a particular ingredient has given its all, the leftovers make their way into our compost, fuelling the healthy growth of our home-grown produce for the next year.

As you may have begun to realise, our entire cocktail list revolves around our kitchen. The syrups, stocks and sauces from our pastry section go into our cocktail list, meaning we are not losing any of the fantastic kitchen produce and ingredients they produce, but at the same time we're not creating new single-use products from scratch for use in the bar.

We've also recently started delving into the savoury elements found in our restaurant menus and incorporating those into drinks. For example, our Heft Bloody Mary features the excess fennel leaves, jalapeños, tomatoes and honey-glazed silverskin onions used on our lunch menu. The ingredients all work rather well as an excellent garnish for the cocktail and really highlight our sustainability credentials.

While all our cocktails are equally delicious and firmly represent the sustainability practices in operation within Heft, my personal favourite has to be our Whey Gimlet. My husband Kevin and the team make their own yogurt for one of our desserts on the evening tasting menu. During the hanging process when the yogurt is thickened, I take the excess whey, an ingredient that ordinarily we wouldn't have much use for. However, with its lovely citric twang and tartness, it's a great replacement for lemon juice in a gimlet. On occasion we can also add a bit of the yogurt back into the whey liquid to thicken the liquor slightly for the gimlet if it's needed.

To serve, we shake the whey over ice with locally produced gin, crafted by artisan distillery Shed One, and pour into a chilled coupe glass. The garnish is simple: damson syrup made from local damsons from the Lyth Valley, which is just the other side of Cartmel Fell.

Not only do I love the taste and the story behind this cocktail, I also love the way it looks – it looks so clean and stands out against the restaurant's neutral colour palette.

Nicola Tickle is the restaurant owner at Heft in Newton, Cumbria

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