Want to know a little known fact about me? I love cocktails. Not because I’m a massive alcohol drinker, in fact I’m basically the opposite. What I love is the craft of it, the ability to combine ingredients to produce artistic concoctions that both taste and look amazing, it just blows my mind. I’m not a huge aficionado myself, but I absolutely love visiting different cocktail bars and seeing what creations await. So let me introduce you to my absolute favourite discovery thus far: Trash Tiki, a craft cocktail experience that’s redefining what fighting waste looks like.

Trash Tiki is an anti-waste punk pop up that is the brainchild of bartenders Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths, who both have impressive backgrounds in the craft cocktail industry. Kelsey moved over from General Manager at the Oakwood, Vancouver, in 2015 to become a head bartender at Dandelyan in London, a place I visited back in April and bloody loved. It won “Best New International Cocktail bar” for 2015 at the Spirited Awards, and in 2016 became No. 3 in the world, with their menu named “World’s Best Cocktail Menu”. She went on to win the title of Global Champion for Olmeca Altos’ Tahona Society competition in 2016. Iain is founder of Mr Lyan Ltd alongside Ryan Chetiyawardana. They were awarded co ‘Innovator of the Year’ at the Imbibe Awards 2014 and later in the same year White Lyan was also crowned ‘Best New International Cocktail Bar’ at the Spirited Awards, as well as number 20 in “World’s 50 Best Bars”. From there he opened Dandelyan, where he met Kelsey. In 2016, Iain took his cocktail for Bacardi Legacy, the Carta Switchel, all the way to global finals, reaching the top 8.

TLDR: these are some serious cocktail pros.

The pair came up with the Trash Tiki idea after having spent a weekend working together in Dandelyan. Dandelyan has a focus on sustainability in drinks but, because it is a massive bar with a high volume, still throws away quite a lot. Chatting over a beer and a whisky, they discussed the huge number of drinks they had pumped across Friday and Saturday, and what had to be thrown away before, during, and after those services. Having worked over two Dandelyan menu launches previously, Kelsey and Iain knew they could work well together, and the idea for Trash Tiki began to form. Their vision was creating a way to show the craft cocktail industry that would-be waste ingredients could still be used for flavour, in an open-forum community that was non-preachy and could actually be a lot of fun.

This first began in March 2017, as the duo paired up as beverage directors for WastED, a pop-up led by chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill farms. Making cocktails to pair with food entirely made from scraps and would-be waste ingredients, the pop-up received a ton of recognition for its innovation in sustainability.

“We wanted to inject a little fun back into sustainability and show people that it doesn’t take a complete overhaul to make a difference”  – Kelsey

A few months later Trash Tiki began, a pop up and online platform that seeks to create all ingredients for a tiki bar from off cuts, unsold products and other raw materials otherwise destined for the bin. Since June the pair have been travelling across the globe with their pop up, with tour locations including Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and many others along the way.

“The purpose of taking Trash Tiki around the world is to see how cuisines and cultures waste different flavours by putting them in the trash rather than using them… Ultimately we will create a platform that is global in every sense of the word, full of recipes and resources that allow the international community to see the breadth of potential behind the products we’re wasting every day.” – Iain

Turning food waste into flavour

Kelsey and Iain know there is a huge amount of packaging that is unavoidable in their industry. Having both come from fairly developed countries in terms of recycling and waste programs (Canada and Australia), they were both a little shocked at the way that it is dealt with in London, which definitely isn’t as good. Often, recycling and garbage get thrown into the same bin with little regard for a need for change. They knew they couldn’t address this side of it alone, so they decided to focus on what they can change and make it open-sourced. All their recipes are available on their website with the goal to keep it fun, so that other industry pros, bartenders and owners can take part and have it become a larger conversation. They decided to take in on tour to get a bigger reach and really get people to take part in it all, plus they’ve gotten such a great response it seems the tour just keeps expanding.

Right now their main goal for the tour is to bring awareness to the industry. It has already come far in that you can go to many cocktail bars all over the world and get a great drink, but Iain and Kelsey want to take it one step farther and stop single-use ingredients. There are so many interesting and complex flavours in the things we often take for granted by throwing away, but Trash Tiki hope to put this to an end. By posting all of their recipes they aim to become a resource that bartenders use regularly and can build upon, with ingredients such as leftover apple pulp, citrus peel, avocado pits and pistachio shells. Cool right? The pair hope that in a year these recipes will be well known and the industry can start to tackle more of the large waste issues in the bar world, including the recent surge in greenwashing that can lead people to apathy around the word sustainability. 

‘We want to show that it can still be fun by doing Tiki drinks, playing loud punk music and throwing a party, it gives those that come down some tangible inspiration that they can take away from it all.’

So how do they come up with their recipes?

It’s pretty cool. They ask the bar/restaurant where they will be doing the pop-up to start saving would-be-binned off-cuts, pulps and anything else the day prior to the event, and provide a list in advance of what that might be. Kelsey and Iain can start drawing an idea of what the menu will look like from there, using classic tiki recipes as a rough outline for structure. They do have a few ‘classics’ that they really love doing, although they change from city to city depending on what waste is available. One of their favourites is their “Trash Tai’ which uses a homemade curacao (they’ve done both grapefruit and orange), and an ‘orgeat’ (nut syrup) made from almond croissants. That’s right, leftover croissants! They also use those avocado pits and pistacio shells to infuse rum, providing a toasted nutty background flavour. They only post their menu on their Instagram and website, so it always requires some explanation for those who have walked in not knowing what to expect. That being said, people have been getting on board and only leave after at least trying a drink or two!

While Trash Tiki are mostly tackling the food waste side of things at the moment, they are also trying to use bamboo straws when possible (unfortunately they won’t be ready until the US leg of the tour, but they’ll be a staple from that point onwards). They’re excited to see what the future could hold for sustainability in the world of craft cocktails, and until then they’ll keep partying and experimenting with turning waste into wonderful flavours.

Make sure to check out Trash Tiki’s tour dates here to see if they’re hitting a city near you, and check out their blog for a ton of recipes. Their recipes ultimately end up saving you money, and everything is made from ingredients that are already found in most bars and are generally accessible anywhere in the world. I can’t wait to give them a try!

Until next time, stay magic y’all.