August 11, 2016
Next week sees the launch of a menu which is subtly setting a new direction for drinks design and the cocktail bar experience in Brighton.
Ladies and Gentlemen we present to you.
Working at Oki Nami, the renowned Brighton Sushi Restaurant, several years back, Sean DeRosa was brought back in early 2016 to take on the challenge of re-desigining the cocktail menu in the upstairs bar.
Sean took this as an opportunity to create a menu that would creatively challenge and himself, and the bartenders making the drinks and enlighten the guests who would be drinking them.
The end result is a 12 drink menu that takes through a sensory journey with strong ties to the Japanese heritage of the restaurant.
Working alongside local Merkaba Bartender and artist Youjin Lee, Sean combined text, imagery, taste and smell in a menu that objectively captures the imagination and pulls your senses from one page to the next.
The idea is to follow the protagonist, Kyoto through her story into various scenes, each scene represented by a cocktail, with a sensory link between flavours, smells and the scenes and imagery depicted. The associated senses are supposed to take you on a sensory journey both through the story and back through your own memories and experiences.
The menu was initially conceived over an intense 3 day period of creativity, in order for the menu to run for the soft launch earlier this year.
Since then the story has been allowed to develop along with the drinks themselves which have organically evolved, some changing ingredients and names. As each scene took shape Yew Jin was able to create the incredible Manga style artwork to accompany the menu, Sean stating strong influences were taken from the likes of Studio Gibli.
It is a daring concept and whereas some drinks Sean has taken inspiration from his own experiences in past bars others are powerful combinations of flavours intended to excite, and transport some never having been tested out in bars. This centralises the menus sole focus on the essence of the flavour.
“The approach is not dissimilar to cooking” says Sean “Expect lots of fresh flavours like black pepper, yuzu, saké, lemon grass and several fusions of Spanish and Japanese flavours”.
With influences coming from all over the world, most of the cocktail use the classics as a base with certain modified and substituted ingredients, so the drinks are still recognisable and accessible yet still able to surprise you.
The menu also enjoys some entertaining wordplay starting with a Foreword – a cocktail from Sean’s past, twisting out the gin of a Last Word for Guappa.
‘Chapter’ 2 is an introduction entitled Overture combining the incredible Mozart chocolate bitters, with Ocho Blanco Tequila, Fernet Branca, Punt E Mes and Orange Bitters.
The Story then begins in 3rd Chapter, “Birds of of paradise”, a the accompanying cocktail a variation on the classic Paloma, using Mezcal infused with grains of paradise for a spicy and fruity finish.
Sean gives part credit for his creative process to The perfume society, who run various events around the UK, namely one on how to train your nose. An experimental session where you are encouraged to think of and describe scents in terms of whatever comes into your mind, be that tastes, textures, memories, emotions and even entire scenes.
“If you can design a scent with a specific scene in mind and other people can pick up on that exactly, that’s a serious achievement, it’s almost like transmitting visual imagery across through the medium of scent, literally telling a story through smell”
“Now when I approach cocktails I think what kind of scene do I want to create. It doesn’t have to be memories, you can try and build a scene. It is a concept I wish I had had more time to develop, next time [there is set to be a second edition to the menu, a sequel perhaps…] the cocktails will be created at the same times as the scene and will both grow and develop together.”
“It’s the different from just reading a book or watching a film, text allows imagination, film gives you someone elses’ vision, say the directors, with this idea you can create a similar theme however every individual will have their own unique experience with the journey and story because smell and taste are such personal senses”.
An important mention is further carrying this inspired menu is the passionate and skilled bar team behind Oki Nami all with their own strong dedication to flavour and the bar experience.
“The Menu and the staff all link into the idea of great customer service, chatting to each guest about what they are experiencing in each drink, each flavour, it’s not about knocking the drinks back and getting hammered, it’s about delivering a unique experience”
The launch is Tuesday 16th but is invite only but that’s not to stop you swinging by to check out one of the most creative, innovative and literally tasteful menus in Brighton for yourself!
Check out the Menu online here!
Meet The Artist
Youjin Lee is a Korean born Bartender living in Brighton. She grew up all around Korea, and Studied in Seoul. She now works in the awesome cocktail Merkaba on Jubliee in MyBrighton hotel on Jubilee street.
An incredible artist, she grew up with a lof of Japanese culture in regards to manga listing some of her inspirations as the likes of Full metal Alchemist, Naruto, Bleach, Sailor Moon Studio Gibli, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away.
Her favourite Scene/chapter is Chifu (pictured above, meaning “Chief” in Japanese) she says
“When it was a first draft, Sean wasn’t too fond, she needed to look fiercer and more powerful and we kept adding more little details like the scars until finally we were happy with the final product, and it is also Seans favourite scene, so that’s quite an achievement!
She recently visited Korea for for her sisters wedding, and the trip got her back into drawing and the art she loves.
And if anyone wants to collaborate she’s open to working with people check out more of her work on her Instagram