Tom Colicchio's Zero-Waste Cocktail Concept is the Worst Idea Ever, and Certainly Won't Save the Planet

The pineapple may be cool, but a zero-waste cocktail policy would ban the straws and the umbrella.
The pineapple may be cool, but a zero-waste cocktail policy would ban the straws and the umbrella. alexkich/

When I think of Earth Day, I think of wind turbines, my overflowing recycling bin, and scientists marching on Washington, D.C., in pink knitted brain hats.

What I don’t think of is cocktail trash.

In fact, I never even had heard of such a thing until a ridiculous press release landed in the e-mail inbox of my editor documenting the latest gimmick by Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame and his effort to eliminate "cocktail waste." If that term is not ludicrous enough, the news bulletin goes on to boast that “Colicchio is at the forefront of this movement, which has influenced restaurants and crafts bars to introduce zero-waste cocktails to their menus across the country.”

"So what exactly is a zero-waste cocktail?" you may be asking. Well, let me tell you: It’s a glass full of booze without a stirrer. Seriously. And if that isn’t impressive enough, Bacardi just announced an initiative to remove all straws and stirrers from company and sponsored events, resulting in the elimination of 1 million straws and stirrers from landfills.

Now, I can’t say for sure what 1 million stirrers looks like in person, but I am betting that I can fit them all into my purse, so forgive me if I’m not all that impressed that someone had the brain fart to think of a way to capitalize on Earth Day and its relation to a bar.

Furthermore, I can tell you for sure that the mai tai industry will become extinct if that drink is no longer served with a miniature paper parasol, because if I’m paying $24 for it on a Norwegian cruise, I want my party favor, goddammit. I want to twirl it in between my fingers all night and then place it somewhere strategically in my cubicle when I go back to work to remind me that my life was so splendid for moment that I bought an outrageously expensive girly drink on a cruise.

The drink and the buzz are gone, but that umbrella will stay right there until I get laid off or have a heart attack in the copy room. A mai tai without an umbrella is nothing more than a glug of Ocean Spray juice and a jigger of rum. I CAN MAKE THAT AT HOME. In fact, I can make that right now if I follow my friendly neighborhood hobo to find the closest liquor store. But put an umbrella in it, and it becomes magic and a memory that will last until your co-workers pack up your desk and then throw it all away when your closet living relative never comes by to pick up your belongings.

And if anyone gets the big idea of creating a Bloody Mary without snacks on a toothpick, get ready for my shit fit, because it isn’t going to be pretty. If you even attempt to serve me my dinner in a glass without a bevy of side dishes skewered on at least one toothpick, expect a bloody mess, because I am definitely not above throwing a half-assed drink on your half-assed … ass.

Ever had to clean a Bloody Mary off of a ceiling, windows, and upholstery? Well, I have, and let me tell you it takes more than a couple of squirts of Fantastik to eliminate the story line of that experience. You’re going to be living with lots of wall scabs for a while before that crime scene wraps up.

The press release goes on to supply several “zero-waste” recipes, including one that counts as an Earth-friendly drink because it composts the lemon rind after making limoncello, and another drink because it’s missing ice, “and served just below room temp, which I've been seeing more and more (and really digging) as of late,” quotes one villain involved in this macabre scheme. Forgive me for not applauding their composting achievement. That’s something that should have been happening a long time ago, and the no-ice thing is so offensive even Green Party members might boycott.

I’m sorry, but the last thing I want when eating chips and salsa is a lukewarm margarita I have to sip from the salty rim of a dirty glass. I’ve been in a bar once or twice in my life. I saw how they wash stuff. One dip in grey water and one dip in not-so grey water. That’s it.

Should this trend actually take hold and continue outside of the small circle of idiots that can’t think of a better way to ruin Earth Day for those who choose to celebrate at their establishments, note this: On desperate nights, I have been known to bring my own booze to the bar stool, and if it comes down to it, I will bring my own straw, too.

Which will remain in the dirty glass my drink came in, alongside a bag of food scraps I didn’t have room for in my composter.

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Laurie Notaro