What is Trash Tiki?

Trash Tiki is a globally touring anti-waste punk pop-up. We make all of our drinks from would-be waste ingredients, think stuff from kitchens, bars, and coffee shops, anything from fruit pulps, almond croissants, citrus husks, and coffee grounds to create our cocktails. We really wanted to bring some fun back into the boring word "sustainability", by making 'anti-waste" drinks, but also playing loud punk music, throwing up bright coloured signage (made out of old cardboard boxes) and throwing a party.

We also started it as an online forum that posts recipes for bartenders and consumers alike, so they can try the recipes at home or in their bars out of ingredients that they might already have lying around, and so they can reduce the amount they consume or throw out as well.

How did you come up with the concept?

We came up with the idea for Trash Tiki after a long weekend on the bar together in Dandelyan. Chatting over a beer and a whisky, we discussed the massive number of drinks we had pumped across the bar on the Friday and Saturday nights, and what had to be thrown away before, during and after those services. It was a bar that already had some practises in place, but we felt we could do so much more.

The idea came as a way of showing the craft cocktail industry that some would-be waste ingredients could still be used many other ways, in an open-forum community that was non-preachy and could actually drive inspiration in our industry.

Food waste is a trendy topic right now, how has Trash Tiki been received?

We don’t see this as a trend at all, but rather the next evolution in modern bartending. Yes the straw conversation was good and while less than perfect in many, many ways, it’s at least helped capture a larger audience. Moving beyond that though there is still so much to be done. Straight off the bat, finding a way to position fighting food waste in a conversation that makes it seem appealing to a guest is a big struggle.

Coupled along side of that is the fact some people try so hard to tell a guest every little positive step they’re doing that they lose focus on providing a quality experience where the guests needs come before those of the venue and so that is driving some people away.

The next big conversation we see coming up though is locality vs organic, and it’s going to messy and very complicated. As our understanding of carbon footprint grows, with traceability & block chain innovations coming into assist our food systems, understanding which is the “right" decision around when faced with a choice between local and organic (though always better when it’s both, that isn’t a reality for most) we feel is going to be at the forefront in the coming year.

What are your backgrounds?

Kelsey was born and raised in interior BC, Canada. Having moved to Toronto and studied Fashion Design for a time, she began working in clubs before moving back to the West Coast to start in restaurants in Vancouver. After a few years working around Van’s well know restaurant scene, she started at The Oakwood, a highly reputable Canadian fare lead bistro. Kelsey worked there for almost 5 years with the majority spent as General Manager, before reaching a point of frustration in her career and wanting to change things up and reconnect with her creative side.

Having packed bags & shipped all she owned to London, Kelsey wound up landing a job at the world renowned Dandelyan, where during her two years she won the Tahona Society Global Cocktail Competition, was promoted through to Senior Bartender all while the bar collected a trove of national & global titles.

Iain was born & raised in rural NSW Australia, moving near the Sunshine Coast in his teens. His first years bartending saw him work, manage & open a number of different venues from sports bars to nightclubs & high volume cocktail bars. On moving to Melbourne he spent time in restaurants before making the move into craft cocktails at Black Pearl. After a short stint there his travels began, first to Eau de Vie in Sydney, then to Bramble in Edinburgh which during his year there he met Bramble alumni Ryan Chetiyawardana.

Having made the move London to start the Mr Lyan company with Ryan & his sister Natasha as well as long time family friend Karen Langley, Iain lead the drinks creative and business development of the brand from it’s pioneering White Lyan into a bottled cocktail range, Dandelyan and more.

What is the #1 thing bar can do?

We always say the end is about a reduction in consumption, so everything you’re doing should ultimately be about doing more with what you have, i.e. end single use ingredients in a bar. From there, since every bar is different, it’s about looking at what you normally toss out and working back from there.

It could be the things we turn to a lot like citrus, avocado pits, pineapple skins, juice pulp, but it could also be things like an entire menu of crushed ice drinks since crushed ice machines use 1/3 of the water cubed does. There is no one size fits all solution so it really is about reading, following and learning from as many different people as possible to then figure out what is right for you and your bar

So you guys are promoting zero-waste?

We actually use 'Anti-Waste' instead of zero-waste. To our knowledge there is only 1 zero-waste restaurant in the world (Silo in Brighton) and it's amazing. Tackling zero waste in the bar industry is nearly impossible, given the amount of packaging and recycling around bringing in an alcoholic product. What we try to do is instead of using something once and then throwing it away (for example, juicing) we try to get these things and give them a second or third purpose before they get tossed. They often have a lot of different flavours that get overlooked or underused!

Isn’t food waste such an obvious thing to everyone?

Cocktail culture has come so far in the past 20 years, we have gone from the pre-packaged juices and fake syrups of the 80s (not that we were bartending then) to using fresh ingredients and having a great understanding of the history of the cocktail.

This is all great stuff, we can now walk into any decent cocktail bar and order a daiquiri and it's usually balanced and uses fresh ingredients. Thats great, although inherently that means that those limes were shipped in and only used for their juice, when we can get so much more flavour out of them, but many people just don't know where to start just yet.

There is now a greater awareness amongst everyone about how much waste goes into food and kitchen prep, but people are starting to notice that we can be better behind the bar as well, and for us, we really want to show people just how different ingredients can be used in cocktails.

Why do you loathe the word ‘sustainability’?

Sustainability has in recent years been so overused! It is great that the world is now paying attention to companies that are doing their part to reduce their waste, but it is a word that marketing departments use to sell something to you!

If you think about the word 'sustainability' it might invoke some thoughts of that little green arrow recycling symbol or blue skies or whatever, but rarely does it invoke any emotion. Because it is so all encompassing, it could apply to anything from waste to water usage to plastic bottle thickness. So instead of using this word, we want to give the bar and cocktail community a new language to talk about this kind of stuff with. A vernacular that captures reducing prep waste, reusing your melted ice to make new ice, paying attention to where your produce comes from, and also paying attention to what brands you are using in your cocktails as well.

What are some of the more unusual ingredients you’ve come to work with?

Loads! In Asia, where a lot of the time we were working with things that we had never worked with before, it's a big part of the fun of it, to get to know new ingredients and use and learn about them. When we were in Seoul, we came across a berry that a bar was using for a vodka infusion called Omija berry, Omi meaning 5. It actually stimulates 5 taste sensors, sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami, so we took the vodka soaked berries and made a fantastic grenadine with them.

In South America, Bogota specifically we were taken to a massive market where we didn't know most of the insane amount of fruits there (luckily we had someone very knowledgable showing us around). On fruit was described as 'tropical fruit', while we thought something was lost in translation but the thing literally tasted like papaya, pineapple, and mango all rolled into one - was called Guanabana.

Why Tiki?

Starting out, we both had an interest in Tiki culture, and the drinks we make together always seemed to have a bit of an influence of tiki in them, be it by using multiple split bases or elaborate garnishes. When we started touring with Trash Tiki though, the most challenging category of drinks was Tiki. It’s known for elaborate over the top presentation which is often with embellished parasols and plastic stir sticks, so doing garnishes by giving ingredients a second or third use and still making the drinks ‘look tiki’ was challenging for sure. It’s also one style of drink that has not really moved far from its classic form, drinks are all made on fresh juices and spiced syrups without having much thought for what could be done with the would-be waste ingredients left over from those processes.