Charlie Parker's is a cocktail bar downstairs from restaurant Fred's in Sydney, Australia. Above both of them is a rooftop garden where they have a 20,000-resident beehive, lots of edible produce, and composting.
Our compost bins take care of 90% of all bar waste and our top to tail plastic free approach has seen major success from exclusively using grain straws (or no straws), to all drink prep being stored in food safe mason jars that double as epic sous vide vessels.
Our garnishes are made out of the by products from our preps and, our citrus soda is the result of lemon & lime husks combined with lemon myrtle from the garden. The famous Australian native is also blended with verjus to be used as a citrus ingredient into our signatures.
Bar Manager Giacomo Franceschi responded to some inquiries with more information about what they grow, some of the most productive plants, and a few tips on beekeeping and composting.
Did you hire professional help to get the garden started, or do you have people on staff familiar enough that you did it all in-house?
We did it in the house! Honestly speaking when we first started, we did not know much about it. We have learned the most along the way. We have always researched before doing anything. You always want to look at:
• Needs of drain and different way to apply it.
• Type of soil.
• Position (time of shadows and sunshine & related to others plant).
• Quantity of water needs.
• Time of growing.
• Potential yield and related future use
Is your bar program one that changes frequently that allows for you to be very nimble when you run out of certain herbs etc?
Our drinks are constantly changing base on seasonality of ingredients, some cocktails stay on the menu for 2 weeks. Our garden provides us enough ingredients to represent main flavours in all the signatures drinks.
Are you able to grow produce year-round?
What plants that you are growing provide enough supplies to meet the bar program? Which are the most efficient/easiest?
Anything you tried that doesn't work/doesn't provide enough?
I have a few heroes up in the garden.
Always available we have over 2m tree.
I like to use it in cordial instead of using acids. It’s very famous for his oiliness and health properties, part of the aboriginal heritage. [I also make]
Tea tree- Mango cordial
Tea tree- bosc pear
Tea tree – London dry gin (CP’s reviver).
It is absolutely my fav of the garden. It smells sweet and tastes savoury. We fermented it with honey creating our signature herbal and savoury mead. (we blend it with other type of sage: regular-purple-golden to maximize the flavour but P.S. is definitely the tastiest end the fastest to grow back. We have picked over 2.5 kg of leaves in 9 months).
Absolutely super tasty! We do harvest all and we infuse it with milk (cold infusion for 48 hours) then we strained of and we use that milk for our house clarified milk punch. It adds and elegant chocolate minty finish to the drinks. The dehydrated leaves infuse with milk make amazing chips which we always offer at the bar. We also have mixed (fresh mint leaves) it with nectarines and peaches in an outstanding seasonal soda.
Native from Australia its leaves are citrus and aromatic we use fresh leaves for garnish, and we let the left-over ones dehydrate. We then blend them in a powder which we mix with our citrus husks soda but mostly we infused it with verjus (the verjus we use in our signatures instead of lime/lemon).
I would say that this 4 are the ones that I use all the way around. They provide me great flavours and we save a lot of money.
Also, pink button thyme, coriander, rosemary, regular thyme, Yasmine, stevia (small amount in honey fermentation) are plants that I can use all the year around but are not required as much.
Cherry tomatoes are growing only in summer (reason why we harvest them and dehydrate them to then infuse them with Aperol in Cp’s Aperol spritz- did 20l infusion the batch finished last week)
Lavender is something that we use fresh only when it does flowers.
Rhubarb is growing much faster at the moment and we are using it just now. (also batch in cordial)
Can you name some of your preserved ingredients?
-Herbs infused mead
-Signature distillates: Wattleseed distillate,Tomato leaves distillate, Snapper distillate, Cp’s distillate blend (single distillation in different way of thyme, pink button thyme and caraway.), Kalamata distillate (CP’s clear dirty martini), Basil distillate (down to 25% abv as sprayed fragrance for introduce the nose to the drink), Black fig distillate (coming now! I have dehydrated some black premium fig at the end of the season and now we are making a signature fine Cognac O.F), Cardamom distillate (fragrance), Chocolate mint root and coconut flakes distillate.
And many others…..
-Dehydrated ingredients – infused spirits. Cherry tomatoes! Kalamata prior distillation! Figs!
-Fruit wine. Nice! Seasonal fruit rich of sugar- peach, nectarine, mango (stone fruit wine) strawberry wine (mixed with the CP’s distillate blend) now we came out with bosc pear and tea tree wine.
What's your general process for citrus? Peeled first, then squeezed, then composted? Or do you get another use such as citrus stock?
Use the husk byproducts in our main soda.
What are you fermenting?
I am fermenting in big quantities a basic herbal mead (the one with sages) that I then flavoured differently in second fermentation. We do work a lot with our honey and some local beekeepers.
I do lacto-ferment a lot of berries which I after infuse with herbs like teat tree or deep flavors thing like corn.
I do ferment basically all the good seasonal fruit in wine.
Beehive - Are there any resources you used/use for beekeeping information? Any tips or recommendation for other bars/restaurants to know about before getting started?
I would suggest to get in touch with the local beekeeper association. They will provide diseases information and they will run useful training on the purpose to train amateur beekeepers. However, reading is a very good way to learn, I will suggest making close to you a master beekeeper and learn from him. You have to spend time with the bees to understand them. It takes time.
How does your compost system operate?
We use our composts for the soil of the garden. We have 2 of them always running.
No citrus at all in the compost!
Very easy and fast read on the government website which supplied us 2 of them for free. I did a 5 minutes online lesson on compost.
What was the most challenging plastic item to get rid of/find an alternative for?
Well leaving the vacuum-bags for lacto-fermentation and all the sous-vide purposes seemed like we were losing quality on prep. This was just an impression and it’s not been that hard as you know that it’s good to do it that way. We love using jars for multiple reason.
What products did you have to stop carrying or find other vendors for in order to avoid plastic packaging?
We bought over 50 sealed jars of different measures.
Do you still sell sodas/beer/wine in glass and/or aluminum?
Still sell them in glass. We have a few cans.
Do you not serve single-serve sodas then?
We make our owns signature sodas using plant of the garden and seasonal fruit. We have them on draft.
Thanks to Giacomo Franceschi and Charlie Parker's for the interview!