Inside The Brilliance of the Zero-Waste Cocktail

How the bar at Providence is giving produce a spirited second life

Providence’s head bartender Kim Stodel never saw himself as an environmentalist, but when inspiration strikes, you go where it leads you. “It was something that I had been working towards a long time but didn’t know it,” Stodel said. While the bartender was used to creating cocktails using the same ingredients found on the Providence food menu, he hadn’t thought of using kitchen scraps until he was pushed by the cooks to make his own candied ginger garnish. “I was throwing out all of these scraps,” he said. “I thought how do I make a garnish out of that?

Kim Stodel behind the bar

With the help of Providence pastry chef Jesse Liu, Stodel frankensteined some fruit leather to top the Muay Thai, a Mai Tai-inspired cocktail with lemongrass, ginger, and makrut lime. “It was like a piece of hard cardboard that tasted like Fruit Loops and Thai food,” he said. “I was like ‘alright, I’m on to something. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could use everything?’”

Kitchen scraps

The experience opened doors to an array of opportunities for what Stodel calls “second life ingredients.” He trawls the kitchen looking for potential trash to turn into bar treasure. To date, Stodel has repurposed scraps to make syrups, salts, sugars, oils, fruit leathers, and infusions.

Blood Oranges coming out of the dehydrator

The experiments don’t only call for fruit, either. “We used parsnip scraps, the shavings, and infused it with vodka,” Stodel said. “We made a great drink called the Parsnip Flip which was a play on a classic drink called a flip, but it was sweet, creamy egg drink that smelled and tasted like parsnip and cinnamon.”

Shaved carrots

A chef had previously told him that the things with the most aroma—and sometimes the most flavor—are seeds, particularly when it comes to tropical fruit. That proved handy when the pastry team was using the juice and flesh of mango and passionfruit, but not the seeds. “I made a syrup out of the mango seeds and I just threw passionfruit seed into the drink and that flavored it perfectly.”

Mano De Chango: Angelisco Blanco Tequila, Pierre Ferrand Curacao, Guava, Lime, and Grapefruit

You don’t need a Michelin-worthy kitchen or bar to repurpose your own produce waste in cocktails. “If anyone wanted to do this at home, it’s not impossible to replicate,” Stodel said. “If you’re making syrups out of fruit, the easiest thing is to try and make fruit leather. If you’re going to be preparing food for a big meal for a group of people, consider saving your waste and using it as an infusion which can be then utilized at your next dinner party.”