Sexy Fish cocktail menu set to dazzle customers

19 November, 2020

London hotspot Sexy Fish has unveiled a new cocktail book and menu called Surrealism to celebrate its fifth birthday.

Bar manager Jerome Allaguillemette and Xavier Landas, director of bars for Caprice Holdings, worked with the bar staff to create the menu. It chronicles the restaurant’s most popular cocktails from the past five years, including Kyuri, Clog Nine, Curry Me Home, Popcorn Old Fashioned, Super Magic Monkey and Son of Gibraltar.

“Our menus have been created in a book format since our second menu, which took the form of a fashion magazine, followed by a cookery book and travel notebook,” Allaguillemette tells Drinks International. “Our fifth menu is very special: a celebration of the first five years of Sexy Fish, featuring our most popular cocktails and key reflections of our identity. Bringing back these favourites and shedding a new light on these drinks thanks to the amazing artwork within the book is already proving to be a huge success.”

Caprice Holdings, owner of Sexy Fish and The Ivy Collection, tasked London-based design studio Dazzle Ship with creating the visuals for the latest menu. Drinks International caught up with founder Lex Johnson to learn more about the project.

What brief were you given and how did you approach it?

Caprice Holdings approached Dazzle Ship after having previously shown an interest in our vibrant, 3D illustration style, which works perfectly both for print and the modern world of Instagram-algorithms. After some initial discussions we arrived at the question: “What if Salvador Dali explored a digital futuristic style with an underwater theme to represent Sexy Fish?” Our approach was to look at each drink both separately and as part of a family. Each piece of artwork had a variation inspired by the drink’s individuality, while keep enough consistency to showcase them all as a family of artwork. 

Where did you find the inspiration for these surreal, vibrant designs?

Each drink had its own theme, inspired directly by its ingredients, provenance, heritage and the wider cultural context. This was reflected by supporting elements in the artwork’s composition and individual mood and colour palettes that were developed to visualise the drinks. To tie it all together the core theme was based around the surrealist digital futurism style that we developed in collaboration with the team at Caprice. This client wanted to bring it all together in a premium published book enhancing the overall experience and creating lasting memorability.

Did the cocktails and their ingredients influence the design on each page?

Yes, each one was very much influenced by the cocktail. Well-made cocktails are about creating a certain ambience that triggers our emotions and enhances our mood. A well-designed menu is an extension of that experience. 

You have worked on a diverse array of projects spanning a broad range of industries. How did working on cocktails and with the bar trade differ from other sectors, and what did you learn along the way?

Our background started off in the music industry, which is known to go hand-in-hand with other areas such as drinks and fashion. A larger portion of our earlier projects were focused primarily on aligning youth culture movements with fashion brands. 

From here we developed invaluable formulas around consumer behaviour, future trends, cultural movements and lifestyle insights. With younger audiences becoming increasingly segregated, it’s often about finding new ways to merge together multiple concepts to create new niches and increase the overall reach. For Sexy Fish we applied the luxury of high-end art to the drinking experience with the aim of adding memorability. 

Much of our work involves introducing new or complex topics to audiences. The work always aims to challenge audience perceptions via visual storytelling techniques. A lot of the work we do is a combination of VFX [visual effects] animation and motion graphics. This can be anything from 10-second Instagram posts, TV commercials or larger campaigns. 

We work across the spectrum from household brands to start-ups. The most important factor in any relationship would be the client collaboration process. This is something that normally takes time, in order to build trust and form an open dialogue, but the investment in these foundations pays off when you have the right environment to develop creative work that really pushes boundaries. 

We feel it’s important for the client to be as close to the process as possible. With bloated account management teams, it’s often common for creative decisions to get lost in translation, so we avoid that by keeping our client base selective so that we can dedicate more energy to the relationships that matter and focus on delivering quality work for them. 

With so much of the modern world of advertising and marketing driven by video, we like to keep that at the core of every creative idea straight from the development stage. Commonly, design teams have seen this as an after-thought, or an ‘animated’ layer on top of the artwork, but the stand-out projects have motion in mind from the start.

What are the most important traits for a successful cocktail menu?

Well-designed cocktail menus are an important precursor to guide consumers through what is essentially rooted in a ritualistic experience. The goals of these experiences can differ, but often centre around themes such as celebration, connection and relaxation. A well-designed cocktail menu is your initiation into this experience.

It subtly asks you questions, such as: what mood would you like to conjure? How would you like to feel? What senses what you like to stimulate? The aim is to educate and inspire, allowing you to immerse yourself in the experiences. A well-mixed cocktail is modern-day magic, a potion that creates instant nostalgia based on a primal appeal to our human senses. This was our aim for Sexy Fish. 

Do you think an attractive, attention-grabbing menu can drive sales of premium cocktails?

Investing in good quality visual imagery has always been proven to drive sales. We’ve seen this for decades with advertising, and it’s what now drives engagement on social platforms such as Instagram, especially with the younger generation. Applying this ethos to a cocktail menu and presenting it as premium book is a step further in this direction, and combined with a well-planned social marketing strategy, it can create further premiumisation of the brand. 

What advice would you give to bar owners around the world that might be considering an overhaul of their menus, both in print and online?

It’s important to take a creative journey that really gets the core of ‘why’ they would like to overhaul their menu. What are they trying to say? How can this translate across multiple touchpoints in terms of print and online? Fancy artwork can always have the wow factor, but often what sets the wheat from the chaff is the underlying narrative and messaging that’s been conveyed through the artwork. This is what takes the consumer on a journey and gives them an experience they can invest in and drive emotional value from. 

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