Last week I went to “The World’s Most Rubbish Bar” presented by Discarded Spirits Co., a company that turns food waste into alcoholic spirits. I was excited to see how parts of food that are normally thrown away could be made into something useful and delicious.
As a disclaimer, I tried making notes on my phone as the evening went on, but as you will see at the end of the article, this was not the best strategy, so some of the detail here is from the company’s website.
The event in the World’s Most Rubbish Bar included a short tour with some of Discarded’s ambassadors, who told the back story of each special spirit, and served us tasters of what we were learning about.
Circularity was described as a central theme. Furniture, including the bar itself, had been made from repurposed materials or unwanted pieces from old bars and pubs. Even the drink tokens were made out of old drinks menus. The ambassadors emphasised that each spirit contains two elements that derive from ingredients that would have been considered ‘waste’.
Interestingly, the company also considers the sustainability of their process adds value to the drinks rather than being a compromise; for example, using repurposed barrels means that you get subtle notes of the other spirits that were stored in them beforehand.
But how do you make cocktails from food waste?
The first spirit we were introduced to was the vermouth made out of discarded cascara. Cascara means ‘husk’ in Spanish and consists of the skin of the coffee berry – yes, coffee is a fruit! What we consume is the coffee bean, which is in fact a seed of the coffee berry, and the cascara is often throw away after harvest, although it can also be made into tea.
The base of the vermouth is a fortified wine, previously used to impart flavour into casks in preparation for the final stages of malt whisky maturation. After use, this wine spirit is often sold on or even disposed of.
You could definitely taste the coffee notes in the vermouth. The website describes the taste as fruit-forward damson jam and cherry flavours, with deep notes of dark chocolate and roasted coffee giving way to dry red wine and a peppery spiced finish.
Grape skin vodka
Secondly, we were given the story of the grape skin vodka. This was the most interesting one for me. As an enthusiastic wine drinker, I’ve always known that wine come from grapes, but never considered what happened to the grapes afterwards. The pomace – namely, the skins, stems and seeds left over from extracting grape juice – is normally discarded in the wine-making process. 12 million tonnes of it every year, in fact.
Discarded Spirits reclaims this ‘waste’ and distils it for the base of their vodka. The second main ingredient is also from wine production. Sometimes when wine producers want to reduce the alcohol content of their wines, they literally remove some of the ‘wine alcohol’ and discard it. This is blended with the distilled pomace to make the grape skin vodka.
Banana peel rum
This was my favourite spirit. Bananas are the most wasted fruit in the UK and Discarded gives banana peels another life by extracting their iconic flavour for the banana peel rum.
The base of the rum comes from another waste ingredient I had no idea existed. Rum is aged in casks to impart flavour into the wood in preparation for the final stages of malt whisky maturation. After initial use, this spirit is often sold on or even disposed of. This reclaimed ingredient is blended with the banana peel extract to make the dangerously delicious rum.
The evening ended in a blur as each attendee exchanged four tokens for cocktails made out of the signature food waste spirits. Safe to say, I got suitably trashed by 8pm.
Explore Discarded’s website for more information, how to buy and which bars in the UK serve their spirits.