These elegant cocktails are litter, literally

NEW YORK: Iain Griffiths, 32, constantly enters and leaves bars, restaurants and bakeries, collecting food scraps and carrying leaking brown boxes.

Like half of Bartender Trash Tiki's duo, he has to do collection rounds frequently. Remains of food are ingredients for the Griffiths recycled craft company, which began with his wife, Kelsey Ramage. Together, they travel the world making drinks with leftover items. His goal: to create a more sustainable bar scene. The couple started Trash Tiki in 2016. Since then it has become a series of international events and an online recipe platform that reinvents leftover items such as watermelon peel and fruit pulp.

These days, the founders are on a national and European tour that takes them to restaurants and other places for kitchen delivery in whatever city they are in. They boil one day croissants in sugar syrup, leftover milk from coffee shops and ferment discarded skins. Avocado sauces are sauteed, cut and strained for their nutty flavor. The peels of the squeezed limes are thrown into a pot to obtain a citrus broth.

These ingredients find their way into reinvented favorites. A mai tai from Trash Tiki, for example, includes rum infused with discarded peels and broth made from orange peels, boiled and mixed almond croissants, lime peel juice and dried hibiscus. Other drinks are simpler, such as a bittersweet cocktail made of strained apple pulp, sugar, water and citric acid.

Even cardboard boxes are recycled in handmade coasters. As the couple says, single-use waste is just a lack of creativity. As soon as a waste item is created, you must create the second recipe, Ramage said. Cooks have been doing it for centuries.

The idea is to inject some fun into sustainability, which Griffiths said tends to be a dry and boring issue. He cited influential people on social media who posted plastic-free food photos and patted each other on the back. Griffiths and Ramage estimate that a single bar produces enough waste in one night to supply a two-night popup.

Despite all the captivating advice, Trash Tiki still struggles with image perception, in particular, that it's about diving in the dump. The hardest part of this is finding a way to talk about that that doesn't sound disgusting, he said Griffiths

In the last two years, Trash Tiki has visited almost 100 cities. At first, Griffiths said, they told us that brands would never work with us. Now, alcohol brands are quick to support the cause of sustainability. Of course, sustainability implies more than anti-waste initiatives. It's really important to let those ideas move into your daily life, Ramage said, even when you're closing and having a cocktail.