The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49

ISSUE 49

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Incoming: new menu drop from Sexy Fish London, Manchester and Miami – launching in Rome…

ByThe Cocktail Lovers

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If we know anything about Director of Bars at Caprice Holdings, Xavier Landais, and his thinking behind a new Sexy Fish menu, it’s that he and his team never do anything by halves. Last year they revealed it to great aplomb in six cities across six continents on one day for goodness sakes. 

It was a feat even Landais concluded nearly broke him. “Logistics, time zones, the planning – it was insane. I was having meetings with Sydney at midnight and Seoul at 6am and doing everything else in between. The whole thing was off the charts but we did it and it was the proudest day of my career. But like I told you last time, I would never do anything like that again. That’s why we’re going to do the exact opposite. Instead of launching in six cities we’re launching in one.” 

Sounds simple enough but in true Landais form, there’s more to it than that…

So what’s the story? 

In a nutshell, we’re stripping everything back. But we’re going to launch the new menu in Rome during the Roma Bar Show. 

Of course you are! But why?

As far as we know, nobody has ever launched their new menu during a bar show  before – if they have, it certainly hasn’t been a menu in its entirety. So we’re flying over our teams from Miami, Manchester, and London to Drink Kong in Rome for the launch on the first day of the bar show on 13th May, which happens to be World Cocktail Day. We’ll be taking over the entire venue.

Xavier Landais

Okay, that sounds more like the Sexy Fish craziness that we’ve come to know and love. Tell us more.

We’re flying nine bartenders over to launch the full menu, so from that aspect, it’s similar to last year as we’re not just doing a guest shift or a small takeover with four or five drinks. We are launching the new menu in its entirety.

That’s no mean feat. So from your learnings last year, how do you intend to tackle things this time round? 

We’ll be sending one of our lab guys over to Rome along with another bartender four or five days before. They’ll be based in the Drink Kong Lab so they can start the prep. The bartenders from Miami will be landing on the Saturday before the event, so they can rest and not be too jet lagged, ready for the menu launch on Monday. Then the teams from Manchester and London will be arriving on Sunday, ready to go the next day. 

Got it! So tell us about the menu?

The new menu is the last in our Trilogy of menus, all based on flavour but naming the cocktails slightly differently each year. So two years ago we launched ‘Synergy’ which was two flavours, last year we launched ‘Trinity’ was about flavour, textures and aromas and this year we’re launching ‘Unity’ which will focus on one flavour. 

Expand please?

Unity means a lot of things. It signifies the unity between all of the Sexy Fish venues around the world but it’s also about inclusivity, about uniting everybody. Which includes our team but also our guests. With that in mind, we’ve created a menu which has the same number of alcoholic cocktails as non alcoholic and low abv cocktails – all with the same flavour profile. So there are 24 cocktails overall, but only 12 flavours, so that’s 12 alcoholic and 12 non-alcoholic/low abv cocktails.

The way they’re presented is equally important so we have two menus in one. On one side we have the alcoholic drinks, then you need to flip it over and you’re presented with a different cover with all the non-alcoholic and low abv choices. We spend the same amount of time on each of the menus, some of the glassware differs between the non-alc and alcoholic drinks, but other than that, everything is pretty much the same.

Give us an example of some of the flavours and how they differ from non-alc or low abv to full alc?

We have a selection of flavours, some fruity like Strawberry, Orange, Fig and Watermelon, others like Cacoa, Sugar Snap Pea, Coffee and Honey. The alcoholic version of the Sugar Snap Pea drink for instance, consists of Beefeater London Dry Gin, sugar snap pea distillate, manzanilla sherry, absinthe, apple and lemonade; while its non-alcoholic alternative is Seedlip Garden 108, Sugar Snap Pea distillate, pear, jasmine, verjus and CO2.

Top row: Fig (left, non-alc; right: alcoholic); Middle row: The Sexy Fish London team; Bottom row: Orange (left, non-alc; right, alcoholic)

How did you compose this menu this time?

We sent our global head bartender, James Hawkins to Manchester and Miami, to research what the teams were doing in terms of developing cocktails. Once he’d done that, we flew over the head bartenders from Miami and Manchester to London, to have a full R&D/testing with myself and Jerome Allaguillemette, our head of bars. 

Everybody had a chance to be part of it. Each of the Sexy Fish venues have roughly the same amount of cocktails on the menu. Together, we agreed on which cocktails were going to make the list.

Was that a very concerted thing to make sure that everybody had an equal representation?

Kind of but it’s also worth mentioning that on each menu there are three cocktails which are only available in each Sexy Fish. So Miami has three cocktails which are only available in Miami. Same for Manchester and London. The reason for that is purely so we can have an offering which was really bespoke to the market.

Tell us about Drink Kong and the decision to launch the menu during the Roma Bar Show? This isn’t the only bar show in the world, so why this particular one? 

That’s a good question, and the answer is, we wanted to do a bar show which was this side of July. So there’s Brooklyn and Mexico, but they were kind of restricted. We also had Phoenix, but that’s too early. Rome hit the spot nicely in terms of timing and logistics.. 

Regarding the venue, it had to be a certain size and flow. We couldn’t do it in a bar that’s too small or a venue with only one bar – a bar that maybe wouldn’t be able to deliver what we want to deliver; we’re expecting around a thousand people. So the list of bars that could accommodate our needs was actually quite small.

I went to Drink Kong last year and I thought the size of it, the number of bars they have in their venue and the level they’re at was perfect. Wherever you are in the space, you’ll be able to access the whole menu.

Top row: Apple (left, non-alc; right: alcoholic); Middle row: Raspberry (left, non-alc; right, alcoholic); Bottom row: Cacoa (left, non-alc; right: alcoholic)

And how has it worked in terms of logistics with the team over there?

We started on the logistics about three months ago. The main difficulty has been ingredients, not every ingredient or spirit is available in Rome. So, we’ll either be shipping things over or carrying stuff over in our suitcases as we always do. There are enough of us going, we all take two suitcases and we’re going at different times so it won’t be a problem. I’ll be flying over last, so if anything is missing, I’ll be the one bringing it. 

Are you excited? 

Absolutely! The big thing for us this year is that we’re going to have all of the Sexy Fish bartenders from our different cities working together for the first time. Last year we sent the London team to Seoul and Sydney, and sent the Miami team to Cartagena, so even though we were everywhere, we weren’t together. 

This time, what’s amazing is that we’ll have bartenders who work the same way, making the same drinks behind the same stations working together, but they don’t know each other. I can’t wait to see them working together. 

How do you decide how that works?

Usually what we do is put all the names of all the teams in front of us. And then we have the layout of Drink Kong. We know how many bartenders we need behind each of the bars and have an idea of who can work together. I mean, they can all work together but we have to have a balance – of levels and also gender, we try to be as fair as possible. But at the same time, we can’t send all of our best bartenders because we still have restaurants to run, so the balance is usually very difficult to achieve. 

The big question is, why do you put yourself through this?

It’s a great opportunity for our teams. That’s the main reason why I do it, it’s about staff retention – offering something to the bartenders who don’t usually get the opportunity to travel. Some do in the big bars, we all know that. But that’s only a tiny percent of bartenders. Particularly when it comes to our team in Miami. The travel is something that people don’t do too much in America and that’s purely because of the tip system in America. If you send somebody somewhere, then they don’t make tips. So the fact that we can offer that for our Miami crew is incredible for them.

Cool. So the launch date is 13th May in Rome, when does it drop in your bars?

We’ll be launching it to the public in all Sexy Fish venues on the 17th May and we can’t wait for everyone to try it.

For more details and to book, see sexyfish.com

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The Cocktail Lovers

The Cocktail Lovers are Mr G and Ms S, a man and a woman who share a passion for cocktails. (We also happen to be married, so we’re cocktail lovers in more ways than one…)

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