Taking an idea that they developed when working at bars and running with it in the early months of the pandemic, Anthony Rossetti and Justin Benfaida opened Cocktail Garnish Co. in December 2020. The company, which offers dehydrated fruit, dried botanicals, and rimming salt, looks to appeal to home cocktail enthusiasts, mom-and-pop bars, and large-scale operations such as casinos and cruise lines, by offering an alternative to one of the more labor-intensive and waste-producing bar jobs.

Rosetti and Benfaida project sales of at least $400,000 this year — up from $125,000 in 2021. They say that a combination of social media, attending expos, and calling on bars is bringing a new wave of customers into the fold.

1. What was the impetus for the business?

AR: I saw cocktail bars making 400 to 800 cocktails an evening, but only having 120 pieces of garnish on hand from a small in-house dehydrating machine. I started thinking about how we could make sure they didn’t run out of supply. I know as a bartender, you don’t want one guest to see that their drink doesn’t have garnish while another guest’s does. During the pandemic, we saw an uptick in home cocktail enthusiasts and also realized that when places reopened, they would need a product that would last since there was still so much uncertainty in the industry.

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2. Are bar operators/restaurant owners happy to have you take over this task?

JB: It really depends on the size of the operation. It’s a very labor-intensive process and the larger businesses don’t want to deal with working a massive dehydrator.

AR: Beyond the labor, people really have to do a meticulous prepping job. On the sustainability end, if the 10 a.m. bartenders are cutting fresh fruit, there’s only so much they can cut in a short period of time. By the time the 7 p.m. rush comes in, that fruit is withering away. We’re not only taking care of the aesthetic, but we’re also changing the prep. We only send out the most premium and best-looking pieces. The fruit is cut at peak firmness so there’s integrity to the shape; it’s almost a perfect sphere. We grind the less pretty pieces into powder and mix them into rimming salt. And we’re in talks with a company to introduce an infusion kit. This will allow us to use more of those broken pieces, and mix them with botanicals like juniper and rose.

JB: There’s decay from the moment fruit is cut, and that’s at odds with the fact that bars want people to take photos of their pretty drinks. Our products, if stored properly, have a lifespan of around a year, and we offer dehydrated fruit that’s not coated in sugar syrup, something we know other companies are doing to try and speed up the dehydration process. There’s three to four hours of prep and the dehydration itself takes almost 13 hours.

3. How are you finding the reception to the sustainability message?

AR: It’s very situational to owners and managers. If there’s an influential bartender at a trendy place and they’re passionate about sustainability, they often take the lead on something like this. But, as with a number of sustainability efforts in the hospitality industry, it takes time to get the necessary traction.

JB: We’re seeing a drive from some of the larger places — hotels and casinos — towards reducing their footprints. We want to be part of that effort.

AR: We also point out that customers can both waste less and also not run out of supply with our products.

4. What else are you doing in the sustainability arena in your own business model?

AR: Our goal is to be a zero-waste company by next year. Our bags are made out of a recyclable wood fiber and even the window on the bag is recyclable. We don’t yet have a wet waste program in place, but we take our wet waste, juice it in house, and experiment with flavors. We want businesses to embrace our message so it would be silly of us to put our products in plastic bags.