Cayman, like just about everywhere right now, has a problem with waste. Anyone who has taken part in a beach clean-up will be familiar with the amount of plastic rubbish that washes up on the sand, while last month the Cayman Compass reported on the issues around recycling efficiently on-island.
“Sustainability” was therefore a timely theme for the first round of Cayman’s World Class cocktail competition. This annual event sees a series of challenges set for island mixologists, with a view to selecting one contestant to represent the country at the global championships, dubbed “the Olympics of the cocktail world,” in Berlin this October.
Wave 1 – which took place at George Town Yacht Club on Feb. 20 and 21 – saw 22 of Cayman’s top bartenders tasked with putting their spin on eco-friendly drinks.
Some focused on less wasteful packaging and presentation, such as the coconut shells cups by Will Collins of the King’s Head, or repurposed whisky bottles by the Kimpton Seafire’s Steve Fanning.
Others cut down on food waste by taking a “root-to-flower” approach, utilizing parts of produce that are usually discarded. For example, Stephen “Q” Quainton of Luca used the whole moringa plant in different forms, while Juan Jesus Pacheco saved pineapple rinds and cores to make Tepache, a fermented Mexican beverage.
The Westin’s Valerie Balignasay mixed up a sustainable Zacapa cocktail using regrown mint.
The Sunshine Grill’s Corey Scruggs offered one of the most unusual taste sensations: a savory cocktail inspired by Sunday roasts, named “Home Sweet Home,” complete with roasted sweetcorn-infused Johnnie Walker Gold Label, caramelized onion marmalade, chicken bone broth and fresh rosemary. The concoction was served in a coupe glass set into a frozen slab of waste ice Corey had taken from the bar at closing time, melted down and refrozen.
He has also launched a range of biodegradable hand-rolled straws, memorably named “The Last Straw.” The options include personalized and flavored varieties such as lavender and peppermint. “It started out as part of a competition last October, but the design ended up being so good, and they lasted for about eight hours, it grew into something bigger,” says Scruggs.
“Bartenders all use tons of plastic straws for tasting drinks.”
But the winner of this round was Adam Slobodian, who can normally be found mixing cocktails at The Ritz-Carlton. His creation blended a vanilla-scented aquafaba (juice from cans of chickpeas), homemade citrus stock, sous-vide roasted pineapple Bulleit rye, dry Curacao, demerara syrup and hibiscus dust garnish. He is now guaranteed a spot in the final round of Cayman’s World Class competition.
“The concept was that we live on an island and so local farming will never sustain the amount of tourism here, 200-plus restaurants and bars. We will always have to import some things,” Slobodian explains. “Chefs use farm-to-table; I was thinking dock-to-dirt. From when it arrives on island, use and re-use until all that is left is suitable for compost. Then that compost can be used to grow mint, basil and so on.”
As well as judging the entries, Diageo Brand Ambassador Rafael Reyes delivered a presentation to bar managers and owners about how to reduce waste in their outlets and save money in the long-term – lessons that consumers can adopt at home too.
“In the case of Cayman, it’s a small island, so you can’t source everything locally, but you do have control over how you use produce,” Rafael says. “The point is: How can we consume smarter?”
Instead of only using the leaves of fresh mint for a mojito, for example, he points out that the stems carry lots of flavor, ideal for making cordials or syrups. Make use of citrus pulp and rinds for a homemade limoncello or citrus stock. Egg yolks can be donated to a pastry chef in a nearby restaurant, and coffee grounds transform into a potent liquor.
Reyes also acknowledges the “guerilla gardening” movement that has swept through cities such as London and New York in recent years, seeing strangers cultivate small plots of unused land or private property. “Bars and restaurants can take advantage of any small spaces to grow their own,” he advises. “Even The Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan is doing it.”
Some efforts are already being made locally. Resorts such as the Kimpton Seafire and the Marriott already grow some of their own botanicals, while The Brasserie is well-known for cultivating fruit and vegetables among the office buildings of Cricket Square. Plastic straws have been eliminated at venues such as Royal Palms, with glass, metal, starch or bamboo varieties offering an alternative.
Reyes’s other sustainability tips include repurposing old bottles or broken serveware rather than simply throwing them away; empty liquor bottles can be cut down and sanded off to form covetable glasses or vases, for instance. “We need to change our mindset when it comes to disposables; really, there’s no such thing,” he says.
Often these initiatives mean saving money for homes and businesses as well as reducing environmental impact – a win-win outcome. “Water wastage is a big cost for bars. Foot operated taps can save 60 percent,” Reyes points out. “Change lightbulbs to LED bulbs, which last for 25 years and offer savings that can really add up.”
“Sustainability and thinking about how our everyday lifestyles affect the environment around us is more and more relevant,” adds Jacques Scott’s brand manager Jo Austin. “It was great to see that there are so many people in Cayman with the ideas and drive to make small changes, maybe sometimes even big changes!”