Ice, ice baby: Smart ways to reduce water use in your bar
At a typical bar, there are multiple points at which the processes of making, using and discarding ice can be revised with sustainability in mind. In addition to environmental concerns, don’t forget that ice represents an expense in itself; being careful about its consumption today can cut down on costs in the longer term. Read on for some tips on how to use ice in smarter ways that conserve water where possible.
It matters how we use water. Over two billion people live in water-stressed countries, a figure expected to grow as a result of climate change and population growth. In March 2023, the UN World Water Development Report emphasised how far we are from meeting the UN target of ensuring that everyone has access to clean, safe drinking water by 2030; as things stand, 26% of the world's population does not. Seasonal water scarcity is predicted to increase with climate change, and – with agriculture using 70% of all water globally – concerns about supply have big implications for our food system.
Industry must play a significant role in changing how we use water, finding smarter ways to work without waste. What does this mean for your bar business? Well, water is one of the most-wasted items behind the bar. Ice forms a considerable part of this problem; discarding ice wastes not just water, but also the energy used to freeze it in the first place.
Your ice machine
Did you know that many ice machines discard some of the water they take in, rather than freezing it all into ice? Shop around for a machine that converts as close as possible to 100% of its water intake into ice. In addition to using less water, newer models often have a better energy efficiency rating, meaning you’ll also save on your energy bills and cut down on waste in more ways than one.
Designate a container into which you can throw the ice you’ve used to chill glasses. Once the ice has melted, use the water for a secondary purpose: for watering plants, for cleaning purposes or as boiling water in the kitchen. If you’re more of a forward-thinker and you’ve got the space, consider investing in glassware freezers; this means you can avoid using ice to chill glasses in the first place.
Rather than shaking a cocktail with ice, then straining the drink over fresh ice in a glass, consider dumping the entire mixture from the shaker straight into the glass. Smaller, broken piece of ice throughout a cocktail can make for a refreshing drink that works well for summery drinks like margaritas.
You can also try the whip shake, a less well-known technique than most, but a great way to avoid waste. Add just 1-2 small ice cubes to your shaker with the liquid ingredients and shake until the ice has melted. This gives you a chilled, diluted cocktail with a frothy texture.
Another clever idea – provided you have enough glassware and freezer space – is to freeze a selected volume of water into rocks glasses, creating a layer of ice in the bottom. Storing these ready-for-the-pour glasses in the freezer means no ice is required for stirred or mixed drinks – and they look great, too, providing a talking point for customers.
Drinks on demand
If you have a specialty house cocktail or a few consistent top sellers, why not pre-prepare drinks ahead of service? Pre-prepared drinks are a great way to reduce water waste; since you’re eliminating the need to chill and dilute each individual serving, there’s no shaker ice left to discard. Not only do drinks on draft waste less water, they also cut down on serving time per customer – and increased efficiency means increased revenue.
Ice within the bar is typically discarded at the end of the night, with many bars “burning the ice” by pouring boiling water over it. Not only is this a waste of the ice itself, but it’s also wasting the hot water and the energy used to heat it. This practice needs a serious rethink.
One option is to transfer ice from the well to the kitchen sinks, where it will melt overnight without requiring any hot water. Even better, why not find an alternative use for the ice itself? Use it to water plants or for mopping your floors, or transfer it to bins at the end of the night for use in the kitchen the next day.
For more smart insights into reducing bar waste and minimising your environmental impact, follow Flor de Caña on social media.
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