Festivál, a farm-to-bar cocktail café from HighLife Productions & RAPT Hospitality, opened in New York this past September. The concept boasts a seasonal menu using fresh, locally available ingredients from family-owned farms and emphasizes sustainability, community nourishment and quality experience. We caught up with Festivál’s mixologist/beverage director Devan van Eyck to get his take on sustainability trends in the bar industry.
Are you finding that consumers/guests are more interested in sustainable products these days?
Absolutely. This is a trend that has been gaining traction over the last several years. It also happens to neatly dovetail with our overall ethos of locality and hyper seasonality. It’s a slow, inexorable process that will play out as we transition from a pure consumerism mindset.
Do you have a section in your menu or list specifically for organic or sustainable products, or, how do you convey that products are sustainable?
Our stock in trade is farm-to-bar. This concept is inseverable from localism, sustainability and seasonality. We work with our partner farmers closely in that we have certain produce grown and/or prepared specifically for our program, as well as taking advantage of harvests that are at their peak.
The front and back of the house also are constantly working in concert in order to utilize as many of the same products as possible. This back-and-forth exchange produces food and beverage menus that are in harmony with each other, as well as the region and season.
Do you educate your team—or customers—on what makes certain products sustainable/organic/biodynamic?
Definitely. We reference the major farms that we work with on our menus directly. Honestly, the best education is in the glass.
When you taste a fruit or vegetable that has been juiced to order just a few days after it has been harvested, it exhibits a vibrancy; a lifeforce that simply fades away otherwise. It’s essential to what we do.
We, as a team, love to discuss our farm relationships with our guests, or anyone who may be interested, really. We also endeavor to make field trips out to the farms as often as possible.
The inspiration we derive from tasting fresh produce and listening to the deep knowledge that these farmers impart is incalculable. It makes our job unfailingly interesting and exciting.
What is your top-selling sustainable product?
This varies greatly week-to-week, and the produce is always a component of a recipe, but I would say our leading cocktails currently feature a house-made, fresh blueberry compote along with clove-infused local honey (see drink recipe below), as well as another that we build with a rich, spicy turmeric syrup from Barefoot Botanicals.
What should restaurateurs understand about exploring sustainable options in beverage/ingredients?
In our experience, it pays to explore quite a bit. Go to local greenmarkets; search on the web—don’t be satisfied easily. Running a successful program like ours ultimately relies on building true partnerships with local farms.
We’ve found that they are just as enthusiastic as we are when it comes to collaboration. It’s certainly more work than usual, but so much more rewarding for everyone all the way down the line. Really, what more can you ask?
You’re My Boy, Blue
1 ½ oz. Toki Japanese whiskey
¾ oz. Fresh lime
½ oz. Farm honey infused with clove
¼ oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
2 dashes Ginger bitters
1 barspoon Blueberry compote
2 oz. Ginger beer
Combine and vigorously shake all ingredients (except ginger beer). Serve bramble style over crushed ice in a highball with ginger beer.