Many people get sentimental for the past. Don't get me wrong, I too have a reverence for some of the finer points of history; Particularly in my main interests of music, art and drink, there have been several 'golden' periods that are very worthy of admiration. But I don't think we've had it better, and the future is looking bright.
Certainly in terms of food and drink, we have access to greater produce, we have fewer worries about scarcity or hygiene (in a bottom level sense, there are certainly new problems we have to worry about) and competition is such that we have many new experiences vying for our attention (and money).
However, we're also faced with an interesting position, and we do need to adapt to make sure we don't shoot ourselves in the foot. Although we no longer need to hunt for our food, with a boom in the number of mouths to feed, we need to think on some creative ideas to make sure the world isn't just one big food farm. And a fairly chaotic one at that.
I believe innovation is paramount to survival, but without talking too much doom and gloom, necessity is guiding our innovation; There are a few home truths that need to be addressed which are going to change the landscape of our food and drink in the future, and if these issues aren't addressed soon, it will be the pleasurable side of our food that will suffer, not the necessity for fuel.
It was with this in mind that a collaboration with Hendrick's Gin and Rebel Dining Society was forged with an aim of exploring "the Sustainability of Luxury" - with a focus on food and drink. We wanted to address the situation facing us, but look to how this might integrate realistically into society, and we believed this was in a luxury format. We identified insects as a key part of this. But who wants to eat a cricket salad? Growing up in Britain, we were removed from food that resembled where it came from so the idea of eating a plate of something that is usually regarded as vermin didn't seem to resonate with us.
The arguments in favour of using insect protein were pretty conclusive (you'll have to attend the next lectures to find out more) and thankfully the food - where we shaped the insect protein into beautifully presented dim sum - went down a storm.
So how did I address the drinks side? Well, I toyed with putting insects in the drinks too, but settled upon the idea of addressing the future sustainability of drinks through other means.
This took several approaches. One looked to seasonal and wild goods, but how this could form part of a viable agriculture. Given that the first lecture was in May, this used asparagus and rhubarb - two of my favourite spring crops. Another used our specially designed hydroponic rig where the waste carbon dioxide from a homemade strawberry beer 'fed' some radish shoots in a connecting chamber. This 'closed loop' cocktail used the ingredients of Hendrick's Gin, a homemade cyder vinegar along with the strawberry beer and radish shoots.
However, the 'recycled cocktail' was my favourite, and one that I think might resonate with both bars and consumers alike.
Having run bars (and restaurants) for many years, you realise how much waste is involved in the creation of the fine luxuries we enjoy everyday. This is often with exotic, imported and expensive items. Take lemons and limes for example. These form the backdrop of many cocktails, but they are simply juiced and discarded. What I did with the drink was utilise many of these 'waste' ingredients. The citrus husks from Catch - home to Rebel Dining Society and I's Death by Burrito - were made into a falernum along with some of the leftover spent botanicals used to make Hendrick's gin. This married with some lemon juice (a luxury we don't want to give up, we just need to use better) and the leftover mint stems from the bar too. A wonderfully fresh drink that is good for the conscience too.
Using leftovers in your drinks is a great way of creating simple and tasty cocktails that are a fascinating challenge. Many of the things that get thrown out from your kitchen still have a huge amount of flavour, and can be simply used in some great drinks. Experiment and see what works for you; you'll be surprised by the different flavours left in some of the parts you'd usually discard.
50ml Hendrick's Gin
10ml Apple and rosemary syrup*
100ml Cawston Press sparkling apple and ginger
Build over cubed ice in a hi-ball glass, garnish with a sprig of mint (or the leftover stem split down the middle)
* Take the leftover stems from two sprigs of rosemary (it's still the weather for a roast!) and the cores from three apples. Place in a pot with 200g sugar, a tablespoon of honey and 200ml of water. Heat until the sugar is dissolved, take off the heat, cool and strain. Store in the fridge in a clean container - good for few days.