ONBOARD THE NORWEGIAN PRIMA -- It doesn't take much to get intrigued by the idea of a sustainable bar concept. After all, straws now are made of food like pasta and agave, and organic wines are de rigueur. It's natural to wonder what idea will break through next.
The Croissant Mai-Tai, a sweet cocktail served at the Metropolitan Bar. Photo Credit: Andrea Zelinski
At the sustainability-focused Metropolitan Bar on Norwegian Cruise Line's new ship, the Prima, straws are made of vegetables, menus are on tablets and cocktails are made from leftovers.
Think banana peels, pineapple skins and day-old croissants. Yes, croissants.
The line is introducing a slate of "zero-waste" drinks at the Metropolitan, featuring 11 cocktails that use surplus ingredients and specialty liquors that complement that mission. Examples are Flor de Cana rum, which promotes itself as carbon-neutral and fair-trade certified, and Avorza vodka, which labels itself organic, vegan, gluten-free and kosher.
It's a nod to the line's Sail and Sustain program that speaks to its efforts to be environmentally friendly. The program includes using less plastic (like limiting lotion bottles to Haven and spa cabins on the Prima) and ensuring the plastic used in pool areas will biodegrade quickly if it falls overboard.
The Metropolitan takes sustainability to a new level. Clarence Bennett, a bartender there who calls himself the "Chocolate Cowboy," took pride in telling me about his team's drinks. "Everything that we do here is from scraps," he told me.
Take the Croissant Mai-Tai. He soaks almond croissants in water and sugar for a day then blends them. He strains and cooks the concoction, adds cardamom, strains it again and mixes the syrup with Brugal rum and Cointreau, then garnishes the top with almonds. The drink was surprisingly sweet but tasty, and I caught no hint that this was once a pastry I might have slathered with butter.
Light flickered off the pins decorating Bennett's cowboy hat as he shared another recipe, the Watermelon Twist: watermelon rind is infused with sugar overnight, blended and strained into syrup. He mixes that with tequila, lime juice and his in-house jalapeno-infused liquor. On the side of the glass is a generous lick of spicy salt that made my lips tingle. The hit of watermelon after the salt is a refreshing chaser.
The Watermelon Twist features a syrup made with watermelon rind. Photo Credit: Andrea Zelinski
Bennett and his team make most of their syrups and infusions in a pantry behind the bar with a portable stove and a blender, he said. He walked me through what he does with pineapple skins. He boils the skin of two pineapples with turmeric, strains the pineapple-infused water then immediately stirs in honey and lets it sit until the next day.
He mixes this pineapple tea with Jaja tequila, lime juice and pineapple juice, for what they call the Pineapple Surplus.
Other drinks include sustainable twists on the old-fashioned and the Aperol spritz. Some drinks use a syrup made from banana peels, sugar and cinnamon. Then there is the Pulp Art, made with a red bell pepper syrup swirled with Flor de Cana rum, Campari, lemon and orange juice. Most of the drinks I tried I would order again. It made me wish such a bar existed back home on land.
Aside from the menu promoting the ingredients in these drinks, the bar doesn't broadcast its sustainable concept. And guests wanting a glass of wine, a Corona or traditional mixed drink can find those there, too.