Bars are using up leftover ingredients in creative ways.
Todd Maul is something of a mad scientist, but it’s all in a good way.
The bar director and partner at Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge, Mass., he’s the master of wasting nothing and transforming leftover products.
It’s a popular concept these days, in which concern for reducing waste and caring for the environment is at a high, and when food costs are also escalating. So, steps are being taken to curb spending.
Not surprisingly for a venue that claims it’s “where culinary art, science, and design meet the sustainable future of food,” Maul has equipment to play around with.
He uses a rotary evaporator to turn spoiled wine into potent essences and paints.
“We take the wine and smash it apart and then make it into a tincture by warming it in a bath of warm water,” he says. He uses the rosé paint in his Koi Pond cocktail—he paints stripes of it inside the glass, and then sticks marigolds to them. As the paint dissolves, the flowers break off and float to the top of the beverage over the course of three or four minutes.
“The rosé paint adds a subtle rosé wine flavor to the beverage, and as the drink is consumed, the paint slowly dissolves, making the rosé note more prevalent,” he says. The Koi Pond is comprised of rosé paint, rosé essence, vermouth, Cocchi Americano, gin, and edible flowers that are coated in Cognac and sugar.
Maul always has five or six paints behind the bar—they last indefinitely—made from anything from champagne to sherry or port.
He recycles flat Moscato wine and spoiled port for the Abby Collins cocktail. Both ingredients are reduced in a rotary evaporator. The cocktail includes grapefruit, gin, clarified lemon, burnt cinnamon simple syrup, regular simple syrup and pepper. “We use a pastry ring to punch out the meat of a grapefruit for an edible garnish, and paint the fruit with port and Moscato paint,” he says.
Port paint is also used in the Dwight Street Book Club cocktail, whose ingredients include port essence, white El Dorado rum, lime, Carpano vermouth, Pedro Ximenez sherry, and burnt cinnamon simple syrup, all poured over the port paint.
One of the paints he uses most frequently is made with Lillet Blonde that has been reduced in a rotary evaporator. He uses this for Mary’s Liquor Cabinet cocktail and the Depressed Scientist, which is made with Chartreuse essence, Chartreuse Paint, Lillet Blonde paint, mescal, lime, triple sec and chocolate essence.
It’s not just drinks he uses up: Maul also makes ice cubes from the sediment of day-old juice that has been spun out in a centrifuge, or from purees made from fruit that’s about to turn.
“We blend the juice, weigh it and cut it with alcohol by weight before making it into ice cubes in the blast freezer,” he says. Flavored ice cubes like these are used in multiple cocktails, including the S&G (mango ice cut with Aperol and agricole rhum), the WhafTiki (one almond ice cube and one pineapple ice cube), and the Singapore Sling (tart cherry ice cubes). “As those drinks are consumed, the ice melts and changes the taste and mouthfeel of the cocktail,” Maul adds.
He also uses lime husks, which he sears in a frying pan, then soaks in tequila. This tequila is then used to make Scorched Earth, a cocktail that also contains Gran Classico Bitter, lime juice and orange clement shrub, and has a burnt strawberry for a garnish.
And he’ll soak leftovers from the kitchen—from peach pits to blood orange peels—in vodka to bring in some fruity notes.
“Margins are so small that we try to use everything we can,” Maul says. “We are trying to look at the future of bartending; we are trying to rethink how bartending is done.”
The equipment of choice at Salt’s Cure in Los Angeles is a dehydrator, which bar manager Daniel Zacharczuk uses to dry leftover pulp from juicing fruits (most frequently pineapples, grapefruit and blood oranges).
“The process of drying them out removes their water content and makes the pulp firm and crispy,” he says. “We don't add anything to the pulps as they have plenty of natural residual sugar and acidity.”
The dried pulp—which comes out of the dehydrator in sheets and is then broken up—is served to guests at the bar to snack on with their drinks.
The fruit is dehydrated for several days—a couple of days for pineapples because any longer and the sugars caramelize—but citrus fruits need longer since they contain more water, or they come out like taffy. “People prefer crunch than chew with their drinks,” Zacharczuk says.
He also dehydrates pulp that’s left over when tomatoes are juiced for bloody marys and makes a tomato chip that’s used to garnish the drink.
In December and January, Zacharczuk uses unused spirits and wines to make mulled wine. "It’s a great opportunity to offer something refreshing to some and familiar to others,” he says. "A bittered mulled wine can, fairly, be interpreted as a Amaro-esque cordial.”
He always leaves it overnight for the flavors to meld before serving. He typically makes it with red wine, though says he could do it with white too, and adds a little alcohol to fortify it and preserve it. It keeps for about a month with alcohol in and a couple of weeks without.
The Perennial in San Francisco turns leftover citrus juice into sherbert.
“Any juice we end up not using, we mix with milk and pineapple gum syrup, lemon, lime and orange juice, then freeze it and spin it in a Pacojet, which makes a really great fine-textured ice cream,” says bar director Jennifer Colliau. Her own company, Small Hand Foods, produces the pineapple gum syrup.
This sherbert is then added to the Pisco Punch cocktail, which is served in a coupe glass. It contains ice cold pisco (from the freezer), pineapple gum syrup, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of concha, a Peruvian toasted corn that’s like less refined Corn Nuts—crunchy toasted corn.
This drink, she says, “is not too sweet so makes a pretty good palate cleanser and it’s also a not-too-rich dessert. It’s got some milk but is not a milky drink. It’s like a dessert then turns into a drink.”