Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage, the nomadic duo behind The Trash Collective, have taken their roving Trash Tiki pop-up all around the world to share with fellow bartenders their philosophy, recipes, and techniques for zero-waste cocktails. The more they travel, the more bits and pieces of forgotten barware they leave behind in their wake. “You can probably trace us back around the world,” Griffiths says, “by all the random bar equipment that we’ve forgotten in different places.”
To help keep future bar tools from going astray, the two have streamlined their travel kit from a cumbersome carry-on bag to, as Ramage describes it, “a tiny little handbag-sized thing with the actually necessary shit.” The kit typically includes a few filter bags, a good knife, and always a Japanese Hario coffee scale, which helps Griffiths and Ramage zero in on ultra-precise measurements and develop recipes that other bartenders can re-create without fudging conversions.
In their travels, the two never know what sort of bar setup they’ll be working in. They can land in a sleek modernist environment kitted out with all the high-tech bells and whistles or find themselves in an old-time dive with flimsy equipment and minimal prep space. In the latter case, there’s not much point in Griffiths and Ramage toting along a Vitamix to demo a drink that the bar staff will never be able to re-create on their own. Says Griffiths, “We’re about inserting Trash Tiki into whatever the bar environment is we’re doing it in.”
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No matter the scenario, the Hario scale is always in tow. Griffiths says the scale is small, portable, and sturdy enough to withstand being tossed around in a carry-on bag for a three-week tour. The display gives an instant reading with no lag time, and the scale measures down to 0.1 gram, which Griffiths says alleviates some of the guesswork in eyeballing volume with a jigger or measuring cup. “Ultimately,” he says, “I think we use it a lot because a measuring jug still allows a lot of room for error, whereas if you look at the scale, there is a number right in front of you.”
A precise number also comes in handy when bartenders are working with finicky or intensely flavorful ingredients that are typically used in small quantities, like bitters. “Depending on how full the bottle is, that changes the volume of the dash that comes out,” Griffiths explains. “If you need to do one dash per cocktail and you’re batching 150 drinks, by the time you get halfway through the bottle, the volume of the dash is completely different.” Ramage adds that they even weigh the crushed ice for a drink before blending it, since every bar’s ice scoop is different. She adds that recently she and Griffiths were making a gel for a cocktail and couldn’t have done it without the scale. “Half of a gram,” she says, “would’ve made the difference between the gel being something you could throw around like a baseball, and something with the right consistency—so [the scale is] important for that kind of stuff.”
Most importantly, the scale is key to the Trash Collective’s zero-waste cocktail mission. Ramage and Griffiths want to empower other bartenders by sharing their sustainable techniques, and the level of precision and consistency that an accurate scale allows for in their recipes is crucial in order for the recipes to be replicated. “We’re using things that aren’t normally used in cocktails,” Ramage says, “so it’s really important when we post the recipes on the website to be able to give people an accurate way of doing it.”
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Gray Chapman is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes about spirits, beauty, and culture; she was formerly the managing editor of Tales of the Cocktail. Follow her on Twitter.