Adrian Niño, the beverage director of Bar 1802 at Monte Cristo Hotel in Paris, is swinging down to Singapore later this month to judge the Flor de Caña Sustainable Cocktail Challenge. We grab him for a short chat about sustainability in the context of a cocktail bar.

Sustainability is the current big buzzword in the global bar scene. In recent years we’ve seen bars popping up around the world incorporating various eco-friendly initiatives with the environment in mind.

These initiatives vary. Some use upcycled and recycled materials in their bar design, while others compose a menu with drinks that leverage on ingredients that may otherwise be discarded.

Then there are brands like Flor de Caña that revel in the drive for sustainability. The Nicaraguan rum brand – best known for its award-winning sustainably-produced rums – last year even declared a Zero Waste Month, partnering 12 Singapore bars to offer low to zero waste cocktails in September.

Flor de Caña rum range
A global leader in sustainable practices, Flor de Caña is carbon neutral certified and has led a tree planting programme that has seen over 750,000 trees planted to date.

This year Flor de Caña is hosting again hosting its global Flor de Caña Sustainability Challenge, and has invited renown French bartender Adrian Niño, the beverage director of grand rum institution Bar 1802 at Monte Cristo Hotel in Paris, as one of the judges for the Singapore leg of the competition.

We take the opportunity to speak with Niño on his ideas about sustainability as applied behind the bar.

There’s a current trend towards sustainability in cocktail culture. How do you define sustainability, and how do you see that happening in the bar industry?

Adrian Niño: For me, sustainability is the collective action we engage in to limit negative impacts on the environment. That is achieved through multiple means: starting by business management, daily work routine, purchasing strategy, and staff education.

Can you give some examples of how you approach sustainability at the bar? 

First of all, we have to admit that we will never be able to get to 100% sustainability in relation to the true definition of sustainability.

Start off with analysing why you are currently not sustainable to help pin point the areas of opportunity in which you can set up an action plan, and see how it can be profitable for your business and your self development.

At 1802 we decided to start in three areas: purchasing optimisation, waste reduction, and re-using and recycling.  These key points are interconnected; the first leads you automatically to the next, and so forth. It helps to give a global perspective and it was the starting point of our engagement.

Adrian Niño

Where do you think bars and bartenders can do better when it comes to eco-friendly practices?

Before asking bartenders to be more sustainable in their work routine, I think it should come (top-down) from owners – when they think (up the concept) of the new venue, when they design the work space, the investment in equipment, etc… If your working tools are meant to work more ethically, then bartenders will be proud and happy to share their creativity on a sustainable project.

If, like us, you’re part of a non-sustainable parent structure, and you want to change the system from within, you must first show how being sustainable increases profit. You can do so by starting with the actions previously mentioned.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for the bar industry when it comes to sustainability?

There are many topics that could be mentioned: food waste, carbon impact, soil treatments and so on.

But let us imagine a world in which all the venues are proudly sustainable. Something still missing, and for me it falls on the social aspect.

For example, we have a law here in France that forces us to throw away any food waste even if they are still edible. You’re not allowed to step out of your work place and give the morning’s bread to a homeless person. Of course, you can follow your personal ethics and break the law, but something is wrong with the system above us.

I’m happy to see that now there are celebrity chefs whohave taken a lead with this issue to create some philanthropic solutions – like what Massimo Bottura did with his project, Food for Soul. I hope it can inspire more people in the future.

Adrian Niño

Do bars look out for and source for sustainably-produced spirits – such as Flor de Cana – as well as other ingredients?

I think the organic and fair trade labels are a big thing now. Of course, I’m sure bartenders are more sensitive now to buying quality products to improve the customer experience. It’s part of the evolution of the hospitality business.

Do you think sustainability is just a passing fad for cocktail bars?

As long as customers continue their awareness and commit to eating and drinking ethically, I believe hospitality workers will continue this engagement. I personally hope it’s not (just) a trend, but a new way of contributing to our world.

What would you be looking out for when judging entries for the upcoming FDC Sustainable Cocktail Challenge?

I would love to see contestants engage one sustainability topic and see if it has been pushed as far as possible.

Another key point is how a sustainability concept improves the contestants’ creativity and how it affects the taste and design of the drink. It showcases the bartenders thought process and creativity when I eat or drink something that most of the time goes to the trash. I love being surprised this way.

Flor de Caña Sustainable Cocktail Challenge is currently accepting entries, with a submission deadline ending 6 May 2022. The Singapore finals will be held on 23 May 2022.

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