Matt Whiley’s Re- crafts cocktail menu from world’s most wasted food items

The new cocktail menu at Re- utilises ingredients sourced from the 10 most wasted food items: bread, dairy, bananas, rice, chicken and eggs, leafy greens, apples, tomatoes, seafood shells and root vegetables. Owner Matt Whiley tasked the team at Re- to create 10 pantry staples from each of the 10 ingredients, resulting in 100 different recipes. These pantry staples have then been incorporated into the 10 cocktails.

Matt’s awareness of food waste began at a young age, but it became part of his career in 2014. While working at London’s Peg and Patriot, he learned about class two produce – misshapen or slightly overripe produce that the adjoining restaurant was going to throw away, and so Matt began using this produce at the bar.

“As bartenders, we put stuff in a blender, we turn things into juice or we clarify it, we distil it or we ferment it, and we generally turn things into liquids. As long as something tastes good, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like,” he explained.

Re- is located in the old locomotive workshops of South Eveleigh, which had a significant impact on the bar’s identity.

“Re- was born out of being inside the venue and seeing this old locomotive workshop being reborn into something like new and fresh, in kind of the same way with what we do with produce. We take unused, unloved fruit and we give it a new life,” Matt described.

Re’s new cocktail list features:

  • Leafy Greens – Ketel One, beetroot wine, infinity lead distillate, cheese whey garum
  • Root Vegetables – Hay Ketel One, Mr Black X Re Coffee Liqueur, caramelised carrot and potato coffee
  • Chicken – Ketel One, chicken feet caramel, muscat, black garlic vinegar, cascara
  • Dairy: Ketel One, whey marshmallow, parsnip honey mead, chawanmushi
  • Seafood Shells: Tanqueray, oyster shell amazake, black Granny Smith apple, waste wine vermouth, martini caviar
  • Rice: Ketel One, Marlivale Farm broken rice, banana, whiskey
  • Bread: Wattleseed, cacao husk, bread milk, pumpkin seed espuma
  • Bananas: Bacardi Blanco, banana skin aperitif, poppy seed, black apple vinegar
  • Apples: Johnnie Walker Black, lacto apple, banana butter, Lucky Kwong sake, muscat
  • Tomatoes: Tanqueray, tomatoboshi, koji cured banana skin vermouth

Though many of the ingredients are certainly unique, Matt insists that the intent is not to shock the customer. He also said that, while the individual ingredients may be unfamiliar, the flavours and presentation are quite familiar.

“We’re not doing it for the shock and awe value of putting chicken feet on the menu,” Matt emphasised. “We have the opportunity to show that we’re using chicken feet and it’s delicious, and if you try you will like it.”

Many cocktails feature multiple ingredients, which Matt said was vital to creating interesting and appealing drinks.

“If you’re if you’re creating 10 cocktails solely from 10 ingredients, there’s going to be overlap. You can’t just make a drink of rice or bread – there’s got to be other flavour profiles,” he said.

Sustainability at Re- goes beyond the drinks, with the bar winning the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award in 2021. The bar top, tables, and staircase are made from recycled milk bottles, styled to look like terrazzo, and the “leather” banquettes are made from pineapple fibre. Whiley also works with local brands such as Maison Balzac, who rescue glassware with cosmetic imperfections, and Mud, who make ceramics from excess porcelain.

In the coming weeks, Re- will begin to release the pantry staple recipes on Instagram.

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