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Master mixologist Leighton Rathbone on being sustainable, his fave cocktail recipe

Rathbone has been named SA’s first Bombay Sapphire Sustainability Ambassador and will receive funding to realise his ideas for creating a sustainable industry

29 March 2022 - 10:00
Master mixologist Leighton Rathbone.
Master mixologist Leighton Rathbone.
Image: Supplied

As part of efforts to become the world’s first major gin brand to be made with 100% sustainably sourced botanicals, Bombay Sapphire has named master mixologist and beverage manager for Cape Town’s Gorgeous George Hotel, Leighton Rathbone, as the first SA Bombay Sapphire Sustainabiliy Ambassador.

Rathbone was selected after participating in Bombay Sapphire’s inaugural Creators Hub, a platform which helps bartenders in SA fine-tune their creativity, self-expression, and personal brands. As part of this initiative, Rathbone will receive R30,000 in funding for the sustainable concepts he put forward during the selection process.

We spoke to him to find out what his ideas entail, how you can make a small difference at home, and his favourite cocktail at the moment.

Where does your passion for sustainability stem from?

When I was seven or so I recall wanting to be a fireman, artist, scuba diver and conservationist. I just became an artist, but I realised I could still be a conservationist by the way I lived my life and the way I managed a business. I think a love and care of nature is something that was ingrained in me from an early age, and sustainability really makes for some fun problem-solving.

But I also have international figures like Kelsey Ramage, Iain Griffiths, and Ryan Chetiyawardana inspiring me, and I am thankful to have worked for great bosses like Ray Endean and Guy Bennett, who have not just inspired me, but also put the effort into making our venues sustainable.

Tell me about the sustainable ideas that got you selected as Bombay Sapphire’s first SA Sustainability Ambassador. What did you propose and how do you see these ideas having a sustainable impact in the industry?

Part one involves partnering with a company that produces consumables for the hospitality industry, Sip Exclusive, to collect waste products from venues, and turn it into a usable product that can be sold at a low cost back to said venues, therefore giving them a better profit margin and the knowledge that they are participating an environmentally sustainable way of making drinks.

Part two is employing and upskilling hospitality employees who are unemployed or maybe need more work to produce these products from the waste, therefore showing them some possibly higher level “mixology” skills that will make them an asset to any business.

So overall, just educating my fellow professionals and showing them that sustainability (or stir-sustainability as I like to call it) can be easy and tasty!

On a smaller scale, do you have any tips for people to practise sustainable practices at home when whipping up some of their own cocktail creations?

Definitely. These are things I practised during hard lockdown especially and now my fridge is still full of lots of weird and wonderful flavours to share with guests. Some easy ones are:

  1. The water from your tinned chickpeas (aquafaba) makes for a great egg white replacement in your frothy cocktails, like a Bombay Bramble clover club.
  2. Peel off the zest of your citrus before juicing, they make great air fresheners, can even be used to make a cordial once dried, and are great for mixing with Bombay Sapphire and soda or tonic.

What is your favourite cocktail recipe at the moment?

Lately I have been a sucker for a twist on Royal Bees Knees.

Ingredients:

37ml Bombay Sapphire

12ml Honey syrup

25ml Ruby grapefruit juice

Splash of Martini Prosecco

Method:

Shake and strain the Bombay Sapphire, honey syrup, and ruby grapefruit juice into a bubbly flute or coupe, top with Martini Prosecco and garnish with grapefruit zest.

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