For Brendon Bartley, sustainability is at the core of bartending.

His background in sustainable bartending garnered him the attention and admiration of Bathtub Gin’s owner, Dave Oz, who brought him on as the Head Bartender. Bartley has been leading Bathtub Gin’s internationally renowned bar program ever since. “Before we throw anything out,” Bartley shared, “we look at other ways we can use it.” While no bar is ever going to be 100% sustainable, there are always ways to reduce the impact and footprint.

Brendon Bartley, Bathtub Gin

Brendon Bartley, Bathtub Gin

Photo by HLC

“It’s about taking an ingredient and breaking it down to nothing. Avocados, for instance, how do you use the seed and skin?” The bartender has an answer on hand­–you break the seed down, roast it and use it to make an orgeat. Skins on the other hand, can be used to create a natural pink dye when boiled down. When it comes to reducing waste and improving sustainability, Bartley notes that all of the work is in your prep, but that’s half the point. By having all of your prep done in advance you can have a program that is sustainable and consistent but still streamlined for a high-volume establishment like Bathtub Gin.

One of Bartley’s tricks is to have everything batched, that way every cocktail is two steps or less. For their riff on a Rusty Nail using Starward Whisky, for example, Bartley makes an apple and roasted carrot liqueur. The process takes a full day of prep, but when the work is done and the bar doors open, it’s a two-step cocktail. One of their staple cocktails, an Espresso Martini, uses a mix of salted maple, Mr. Black and vodka and is always batched and ready to go with a quick four ounce pour over ice.

Bathtub Gin Interior

Bathtub Gin Interior

There are many ways to reduce your waste inside the bar, but one of the best things you can do is increase the number of sustainable spirits you’re serving. You can be running as close to a zero-waste bar as possible, but if you’re not using spirits that share your mission you lose ground before you start. Finding brands that practice the same values as you can be tricky, especially with as prevalent as green washing has become. Bartley’s tips are, “Ask good questions and stick by your convictions. Don’t just listen to a rep, do your own research and have two-way communication.”

In Bartley’s previous work his entire collection was sustainable, at Bathtub Gin, he’s closer to 60-70% sustainable. These days, he’s looking at factors like social sustainability and who is making small and unique spirits. Spirits made by women, BIPOC makers, and more are just as important as those that are environmentally sustainable. Social sustainability is something he prides himself on. Afterall, if you have a fantastic sustainable program that’s completely out of reach financially to most people, how much good can you really do? At Bathtub gin, in the heart of New York City, everything on the back bar maxes at $18.

One of Bartley’s favorite bottles recently has been Starward, an Australian whisky that sources all its ingredients locally, even the barrels for aging come from a short drive away. Bartley notes, “It’s just good juice! Here we use Two Fold, and it stands alone. David Vitale (Starward’s founder) is always looking to push the barrel and is putting an Australian mark on whisky.”