Hunky Dory, a newly opened all-day bar and restaurant in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, has already established itself as one of the country’s most sustainable bar programs.
The concept, created by bartender and owner Claire Sprouse, is a demonstration of her passion toward driving more transparency in the bar industry across various topics. How bars can begin to take a more holistic approach to sustainability is one of them.
“Hunky Dory approaches sustainability from a holistic stance, looking to tackle all aspects of waste: water, electricity, carbon footprint, food, trash,” Sprouse explains. “Everywhere we look, we are trying to chip away at it.”
These efforts manifest by making Mai Tais with a sunflower seed orgeat instead of the classic formula, which is made with almonds that require gallons of water to grow, and working directly with local brands. On the coffee front, beans are provided by local roaster Parlor Coffee. All teas are from In Pursuit of Tea, and matcha comes courtesy of Williamsburg-based Kettl.
Meanwhile, Hunky Dory’s onion dip is a true collaboration between the bar and kitchen. Leftovers from bar-made Milk Punch, along with leftover egg whites from the kitchen, are used to create a custard dip with cipollini onions, tangerine, orange zest, pumpkin, passion fruit seeds, and candied fennel seeds, which are also used in one of the cocktails. To harp even further on her dedication to sustainable practices in the food and beverage space, Sprouse is the cofounder of the Tin Roof Drink Community, a national organization that seeks to create a culture of shared information around the bar with a particular focus on sustainability.
Sprouse’s cocktail menu focuses on drinks that have clean, simple flavors, embracing the “less is more” approach to cocktail creation. “The geekiness of the cocktails is front-loaded,” she says. “The guest experience won’t necessarily be burdened with the immense amount of research and ingredient prep going on behind the scenes, but the story is there if they’d like to know more.”
Many beverage programs across the country have adopted a prep-heavy approach so that service is seamless even when dealing with high volumes of customers. In Hunky Dory’s case, it goes the extra mile by tying in sustainable practices, showing that a tiny bit of research and education can make such a significant impact on the environment. “I’m still doing research to learn more about agricultural ingredients,” Sprouse says. “For nut replacements, I really like using yogurt and whey to alter textures in a similar way to nuts. Using pits from stone fruit can make for a really interesting noyaux [almond liqueur]. Fig leaf has a grassy nuttiness that I often use in place of coconut (strange, I know!). Tree barks and stems from other produce can be interesting to play with, too. As always, we use these challenges in sustainability as inspiration for fun, tastier cocktails. The possibilities are endless!”
While Sprouse and Hunky Dory are doing everything they can to exhibit best-in-glass approaches to sustainability, they also acknowledge that it’s no easy feat. “We want to set examples of sustainable or low-waste practices that can be implemented by other bars and restaurants when they operate and make purchasing decisions,” she notes. “We’re just working to be better, not perfect.” Sprouse looks for products that fall within her ideals for flavor, sustainability, and social equity. “I’ve seen a lot of these spirits made with my own two eyes, and that has informed a lot of the decisions to carry them,” she says. “I have made an earnest effort to do my due diligence in researching and asking tough questions to make sure that they reflect our values here at Hunky Dory.”
Taking strides to becoming a more sustainable bar can take shape in many of the various ways that Sprouse has shared, from ethically sourced products to low-waste practices. It’s understandable that going above and beyond like Hunky Dory isn’t always feasible, but it’s important to remain educated on the subject of how we as an industry can put our best foot forward in lessening our carbon footprint and becoming more sustainable overall. With activists like Claire Sprouse leading the way, we hope to begin seeing other programs adopt similar practices.