Meet The Punk Rock Bartenders Who Are Greening The Cocktail Scene

It’s hard to not to get crazy emotional about the state of the world. Our single-use culture based around plastics has created trash on an unfathomable scale. The lime rind or apple core you send to a landfill releases toxic gases from herbicides and pesticides into our atmosphere. Add in the carbon emitted into the same atmosphere to get those Brazilian limes to your favorite cocktail bar in Soho — or your house — and you’ve got an industry that’s in need of a major shift in mentality. Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths are leading the punk-fueled charge to change that mentality.

I first caught up with Ramage and Griffiths at the Tahona Society Contest hosted by Altos Tequila in Guadalajara earlier this year. I knew of them through the legendary Dandelyan, they knew the bar I worked in Berlin, Victoria Bar — so there was an immediate rapport.

What piqued my interest this time around was Ramage and Griffiths’ conference of “Sustainability in Bartending” in Guadalajara — connected to the Tahona Contest. I knew of their new pop-up venture, Trash Tiki, and was dying to know more. Their talk touched on using your products multiple times to squeeze the most value out of your dollar spent but also touched on conservation ideals, sustainable mentality, and even the nitty-gritty of turning all that into a real profit for the business. Or, as Griffiths put, “We fucked climate change by not making it about the money in the first place. Now we’re fucked. So maybe if we talk about the money, we’ll get people to listen.”

Trash Tiki is more than pop-up. It’s an idea. It’s a collaboration. It’s the future of bartending — and to an extent cooking. Ramage and Griffiths took their years at the top of the cocktail game and folded all that knowledge into an open source recipe book and pop-up bar. You can go to right now and find recipes that require nothing more than what the average kitchen has to reuse and extract ingredients from literal waste. There are recipes for fermentations, infusions, syrups, and more. And it’s all open and free. That’s only one half of the story.

The other half is the pop-up bars Ramage and Griffiths operate around the world. Their schedule is brutal as they trot around the globe, applying the Trash Tiki model to every corner of the planet. They arrive in a city and immediately find bars and restaurants where they can score some local, organic food waste and start creating a menu from there. It’s always something special. It’s always local. It’s always trash.

Our time in Mexico came and went with far too much tequila to get any real work done. So I caught up with Ramage and Griffiths when they were in London … at Dandelyan of course. We chatted about what sustainability in bars really means to the environment and the bottom line before the discussion turned to great drinks and how you can be part of the punk revolution and truly #drinklikeyougiveafuck.

Walk us through what Trash Tiki is.

Iain: Trash Tiki is an online platform and a world touring anti-waste drinks pop-up. We basically go around making drinks out of would-be waste items to get everyone thinking about the threat of everyday waste and how we can be a little more environmentally conscious in the way we make drinks.

You’ve made all of this free to anyone online. Where’d that start?

Kelsey: I think when we started, we just saw a lot of bartenders trying to do a few techniques and doing them maybe in ways that were not necessarily the easiest way of doing things and maybe reaching out for equipment that they didn’t necessarily need.