Beyond the bottle: Seven tips for serving whisky more sustainably


How can whisky drinkers echo more environmentally-aware production philosophies when it comes to consumption?

As we’ve already discussed, sustainability is a hot topic in the whisky industry. Many brands are transforming their methods to lower emissions, reduce waste, and minimise their impact on the planet. But how can we whisky drinkers continue to live by that ethos once we’ve brought our bottle home? However you drink your whisky, here are seven tips for creating sustainable serves at home or behind the bar (and having some fun with it!)

  1. Make quality ice in bulk at home
  2. Use locally produced mixers
  3. Forage for garnishes
  4. Ditch single-use straws
  5. Make infusions with old ingredients
  6. Repurpose empty whisky bottles
  7. Just drink it neat

1. Make quality ice in bulk at home  

Ice being cut into cubes with a knife

We all know good ice is a key ingredient to making really good drinks at home. It can be temptingly convenient to buy bags of pre-made ice from the supermarket – but if you’ve got some time and freezer space on your hands, making high-quality ice at home is a great way to reduce your drinks’ carbon footprint.

Fill a small icebox (the kind you’d take on a picnic, like this one) with tepid water and put it in the freezer for 18-24 hours. Then, remove the ice block by placing the cooler upside down in the sink. Chip off any frosty bits, then break the ice into cubes with a serrated knife or ice pick, and voilà – you’ve got crystal-clear ice cubes. Any you don’t use immediately can be stored in a container in the freezer for later – this method is perfect for bulk making quality ice cubes so you can have cocktails at a moment’s notice. 

*Disclaimer: This is one for the more serious home mixologist. You can also stick to whisky rocks or the humble ice cube tray.

2. Use locally produced drinks mixers

Lined up drinks mixer bottles

Artisanal drinks mixers have been on the rise in recent years. Although a little more pricey than a supermarket own-brand bottle of soda, they bring a depth of flavour and elegance to even the most simple of drinks made at home. Keep an eye out for independent locally produced mixers where you are. For us at World Whisky Day HQ, that could be the range of tonics and flavoured sodas from Edinburgh’s own Bon Accord. Not only will shopping locally reduce the carbon footprint of your serve – you’ll be supporting a local business, too!

3. Forage for garnishes

Herb pots growing on windowsill

Whether it’s punnets of fruit that go bad within days or herbs that you can only buy by the bag, drink garnishes are one of the top sources of waste in drinks. An easy (and fun!) fix is to find your own garnishes – whatever you can spot in your garden or forage in a nearby green space. Look out for edible flowers and herbs in spring, wild strawberries in summer, stone fruits and blackberries in autumn, and winter berries and conifer needles in winter. But be careful not to eat something you can’t identify with 100% certainty!

If you’re struggling to find a good foraging spot near you, check out your local farmers’ market to reduce waste and plastic consumption while supporting local growers. Alternatively, try and plant herbs on your windowsill for a home-grown cocktail garnish. 

4. Ditch single-use straws

A bag of reusable drinking straws

Since the plastic straw ban was introduced in the UK in 2020, we’ve got used to sipping our drinks straight from the glass. But using a straw does bring a certain elegance to the experience of a drink, and it doesn’t have to cost the planet! Invest in a glass or metal straw that can be used again and again. Alternatively, get creative and use a garnish to sip your drink through, such as a papaya leaf stem, a stick of lemongrass or a piece of bamboo. 

5. Make infusions with old ingredients

Pile of orange peel

Infusing is a great way to stop food leftovers from becoming food waste. Add some spare herbs, squeezed lemon or lime skins, or imperfect berries to spirits, homemade mixers or syrups, and leave to infuse in an airtight jar for several days or weeks. Experimenting with infusion methods and flavour combinations is a lot of fun and a great way to create customisable drinks that suit your exact tastes! Find loads of tips and ideas here.

6. Repurpose empty whisky bottles

Repurposed whisky bottles, a candle, soap dispenser and lamp

Once you’ve poured the last drop of your favourite whisky, don’t put the bottle straight in the recycling bin. You can give the bottle a new lease of life by turning it into a useful or aesthetic household object. It could be a decanter for water, wine, lemonade or iced tea; a vase for a few delicate flowers or leaves; or a makeshift candle holder or soap dispenser. If you’re really into your DIY, you can transform your whisky bottle into a lamp – for your own home or as a gift for the whisky lover in your life. Here’s a video tutorial.

7. Just drink whisky!

Whisky poured into a glass

Truly, the most sustainable way to drink whisky is neat. No ice, no mixers, no fancy garnish – just whisky in a glass. Slàinte!