A Modest Proposal to Bars Serving Cocktails with Paper Straws
October 25, 2018
Twice this month I found myself rushing to finish a $14 cocktail because the paper straw was collapsing within 5 minutes. I'm over it.
While I very much appreciate bars doing their part to be more environmentally conscious, the quality of a bar's straws reflect on the quality of the bar, as does the quality of the bar's coasters, napkins, glassware, and music. You're not giving good service with sucky straws.
But what to do? All the plastic straw alternatives are kinda bad: even the best paper straws collapse, the hay straws float and crack, and metal straws feel weird (and get stolen).
As a customer who needs a mid-drink paper straw change, it feels rude to interrupt the bartender working on another order to try to get a replacement straw - and worse yet if you have table service, your chances of getting a replacement before the drink turns to watery slush are slim. I've given up on drinks because the straw died near the end. Eff that.
So here's one idea: add customer-facing single-straw dispensers to the bar top or in some other visible, convenient place. That way customers can replace their own straws if needed. It would be important to get a dispenser that puts out one straw at a time so that people don't get their dirty fingers over the whole stack.
There are downsides to that, too: It's another thing cluttering up your bar top, it sends a message that it's okay to help yourself to things in the bar (hands out of the garnish, people!), getting an ugly dispenser will make your bar look like a McDonald's, and most likely someone is going to try to steal the dispenser at some point.
But for some bars it could work and at least improve the paper straw situation a little, until someone finally invents a good plastic straw alternative.
I've actually had pretty good luck with the hay/straw/wheat straws. Have you had the cracking or floating issues yourself?
I also just discovered there are bamboo (reusable) straws! Kind of cool looking too. They'd probably suffer from the same theft issue, but might at least not feel as weird in the mouth vs. metal?
Posted by: Oshyan Greene | October 25, 2018 at 02:49 PM
I haven't used the new brands of hay straws but in the past I've found them to be not great. Other bartenders have recently been complaining about the cracking and floating.
I have some bamboo straws - a different brand than what you linked to here, but they were super large so you feel like you're wielding a dart gun or something. These do look smaller. However I worry about cleaning them - if they stay wet in a bar environment then I bet they could carry mold, etc. I would be hesitant to use them at a bar for that reason but would consider them at home.
Posted by: Camper English | October 25, 2018 at 02:58 PM
We switched to single use, biodegradeable, plant based, plastic straws in conjunction with a straws upon request model (we automatically plate up with a straw for crushed ice drinks). It has helped drastically reduce our single use straw consumption. I have been assured by a professor of physical chemistry the plant based, plastic straws will break down should they end up in a waterway. We have paper wrapped straws of the same material available for guests.
Posted by: Daren | October 25, 2018 at 03:37 PM
People have been posting some good links to studies about how quickly (or not) paper and compostable plastic straws break down in landfill vs compost vs ocean on my Facebook post. (Short answer: none of the options are perfect, but of course renewable is better.)
But yeah in general reducing straw use is the most important first step. And then bars can also spend more on better reusable/compostable straws for the drinks that require them.
Posted by: Camper English | October 25, 2018 at 03:43 PM
What are your thoughts on bartenders who taste every drink with a plastic stirrer, then throw it away... 100 times a night?
Posted by: CN | October 25, 2018 at 04:01 PM
Is there really any good cocktail that needs to be drunk through a straw? Really?
Posted by: Jim White | October 25, 2018 at 08:03 PM
I bought some metal straws for homemade tiki drinks that I’m very happy with. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N233RLO. They don’t bend, but the angled part is key. If I lived somewhere that had good bars, I’d bring one with me.
Posted by: Steve Nicholson | October 25, 2018 at 10:49 PM
Good in theory, wasteful in practice. Metal straws for that from now on.
Posted by: Camper English | October 26, 2018 at 10:20 AM
Swizzles and other cocktails on crushed ice need straws, but not your typical highball.
Posted by: Camper English | October 26, 2018 at 10:23 AM
Yeah I don't think I'm at the point of BYOStraw yet (maybe if the drinks were $10 instead of $14) but those ones with the cold-protective tips are pretty advanced!
Posted by: Camper English | October 26, 2018 at 10:26 AM
Unfortunately San Francisco’s impending plastic straw ban also bans PLA (plant-based plastic) straws, as the research that the city has chosen to follow states that they do not break down sufficiently outside of a commercial composting facility.
Posted by: AndrewK | November 09, 2018 at 02:56 PM
Ah did not know that, thanks.
Posted by: Camper English | November 09, 2018 at 03:05 PM