This week, we will be able to toast again at our local bars and pubs – well, if you are in the UK. Here in Buenos Aires, we are not quite there. Under continuing Covid-19 restrictions, bars are not allowed to operate in any way other than for delivery or takeaway. While I’ll probably spend this Saturday night at home with a bottled cocktail from my favourite local bar (Korova, in BA’s Florida neighbourhood), I will raise my glass to all of you in celebration of this long-awaited moment. So, we toast together, take a big sip, smile…and then what?
I think we should use this moment of reflection and reunion to consider what we have learned while apart so that we can start to rethink the way we drink altogether. That’s what we’re all about at Cocteleria Consciente, a non-profit project where we aim to educate and raise awareness around sustainability, sensible drinking and healthy habits in the spirits industry.
If we all start taking action now, we will be better prepared for future pandemics, reducing the negative impact we have all experienced over the past 14 months. And if we want to prevent future pandemics, we have to change the way we think, feel, buy, eat, drink and live – and that includes our choices at the bar.
Baristas, bartenders, sommeliers, winemakers, distillers, brewers, waiters, bar managers and owners will all need to ask themselves the following questions:
- Do I know where the food and beverages I sell or serve come from?
- What is the environmental impact of my operation?
- Are my decisions having a positive impact on my vendors, guests and neighbours?
When we talk about sustainability, it’s important to remember that it is not only about environmental impact, but also about how your decisions impact the lives of those around you.
Bars can now take the opportunity to update to a circular economy business model, which could lead to a more healthy and profitable industry making a more positive impact on local communities. A great way to do this is through the use of seasonal, locally harvested produce: reducing the environmental impact of shipping, taking advantage of fresh vegetables and herbs, and supporting the local economy.
One of the best bars in the world, Lyaness (which happens to be in London), is already doing this. There, Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) has created a menu designed around the ingredients, rather than the cocktails. Choosing to drink at places like this is just the tip of the iceberg, but we need to start somewhere.
Further small changes you can make in your approach to drinking – at home, and at the bar – include recycling, composting, choosing to shop local and investing in businesses that are demonstrating they’re taking social and environmental responsibility seriously.
If you are willing to go even further, you might consider a plant-based diet. I predict that even more hospitality businesses will start to think about plant-based menus, as well as the local and seasonal options available to them. Choosing vegetables instead of meat will lead to a much healthier lifestyle, plus buying from local farmers will generate a positive impact in our communities.
Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social in London places its priorities on sourcing the best British ingredients, which extends right down to the restaurant’s plant-based menu. I myself am not a vegan yet, but I am transitioning to a healthier, plant-based lifestyle. It is much better to have lots of people starting to change their habits little-by-little than to have only a few doing it all the way. If you haven’t started yet, that’s fine – you can start today.
So, what can you do when you return to the bar this week? The next time you go to your local, please be kind, wear your mask and respect social-distancing protocols. Then, whether you choose a bottle of wine, pint of beer or a cocktail, I invite you to rethink who you would like to support with your purchase? Look to support local entrepreneurs that are making their living by creating unique products for you to enjoy – and who will most definitely invest that money back into your neighbourhood or city.
I could keep listing examples on sustainability, but I believe what’s most important are not the answers, but the questions we can all ask ourselves. This is the time to question everything we have been doing. If nothing else, it could lead to some really interesting conversations over those drinks.
Lucas Groglio is an entrepreneur based in Argentina, and the inaugural winner of the IWSC’s Bartender Award.