New Orleans' Tales of the Cocktail, the annual celebration of spirits and libations, is full of sensory overload. Sure, the week is packed with seminars and tastings, but the real thrills lie in the various parties and activations with elaborate, immersive themes.
This year, Tales attendees could get free tattoos, sip negronis poured from a fountain, and watch a burlesque dancer on ice skates twirl her pasties — in New Orleans. In July.
Out of all these outstanding fetes, the most memorable one likely had the smallest budget. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people poured themselves into a meeting room at the Ace Hotel to experience Trash Tiki. Guests were given a metal shaker, a bamboo straw, and instructions that all cocktails would be poured into the reusable container. A cocktail menu was posted on Instagram instead of on printed cards or flyers, and signs were made with reused cardboard boxes.
Scattered around the room were several makeshift bars serving drinks made from leftovers from Tales of the Cocktail seminars and parties. Tiki-style libations included a Royale With Tea, made with Caña Brava 3, pink citrus, and spent butterfly tea amour, and a Penthouse Smash with Fords gin, peach pulp beer sizz, and orange stock.
Founded by London-based bartenders Kelsey Ramage (Dandelyan) and Iain Griffiths (Mr. Lyan), Trash Tiki is an effort to bring to light the amount of waste that bars and lounges generate nightly. Ramage and Griffiths' idea was to create a series of pop-up events where cocktails were made from unused and unsold ingredients such as oranges that are used only for rinds and the last pours of juices. The bartenders make most drinks with gin from Fords, a company that strives to reduce its carbon footprint. Fords also uses labels that can be easily peeled off, encouraging bartenders to reuse the bottles for batch cocktails or to hold juices and syrups.
The Trash Tiki Tour started at Tales of the Cocktail and continues throughout North America through September. Tonight and tomorrow, August 3 and 4, the tour will stop at the Anderson in Miami, where Ramage and Griffiths will sling drinks made from leftovers at the bar.
According to Griffiths, the team has between 24 and 36 hours to interact with the ingredients procured before opening the doors to the public, so making drinks is "always a little on the fly." The bartender says the typical process is to work with the bar in advance to get a list of what its bartenders normally throw out so that drinks can be conceptualized.
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For Miami, drinks will be made from items used at the Anderson, such as watermelon rind, citrus husks, coffee grounds, and ginger pulp.
Griffiths says he and Ramage are big fans of the Miami cocktail scene and wanted to bring their sustainable approach to bartending to the Magic City. In addition to throwing the party, the duo will also host an industry education session. "We think the Miami bartending community will be superreceptive and excited about learning more. Plus, for our entire tour we wanted to work with people we know and have enjoyed collaborating with previously, so in Miami, that’s with the Bar Lab cocktails team."
Ultimately, the bartenders would like industry professionals to make sustainable changes in their own bar programs. Just as many chefs are trained not to let anything go to waste — lobster shells, fish heads, and bones are used for stocks — bartenders can do the same to make fruit syrups and shrubs. Says Griffiths: "While the notion of Trash Tiki may add a few steps in the process, it results in adding more depth and flavor to the drinks while cutting down on food waste. This way, we can do away with single-use ingredients and get more out of the ingredients we already have in our bars."
Trash Tiki. 5 p.m. to close. Thursday, August 3, and Friday, August 4, at the Anderson, 709 NE 79th St., Miami; 305-757-3368; theandersonmiami.com. Admission is free. For more information, visit trashtikisucks.com.