We are delighted to introduce Gethin Jones, the man behind the recent release of the Principles Menu at Cottonopolis, a Japanese inspired venue that manages to balance high volume service with critically acclaimed cocktails set in Manchester's popular Northern Quarter.
The Principles Menu is a development and progression from their last Idioms menu, Gethin and his team were awarded best overall drinks menu and avant-garde drinks list of the year by leading drinks industry magazine Imbibe.
Before we discuss the menu do you have any advice for people looking to make drinks at their own home?
I'm just going through this now with my little brother! It sounds simple but I would suggest you start with a product or category you know you like and build up around this, for example if you love rum start by learning how to make an old fashioned. One other thing I would recommend is don't skimp on the ice. Getting a drink to the right temperature, diluting it properly through shaking and stirring and serving into cold glassware all make a big difference to the final drink.
You won a lot of awards and acclaim for the Idioms menu so how have you approached this new list?
Both the Principles menu and the Idiom menu before it follow a principle that combines ingredients and flavours that guests can recognise and enjoy complemented with more exotic and esoteric ingredients that provide that element of excitement and daring that I think guests deserve when spending their hard earned money on our drinks.
As a team we started work on this concept over nine months ago researching Japans aesthetic principles and took the elements we felt could be translated into a framework for a drinks menu.
The menu is made up of a short selection of drinks grouped together under five key principles to produce a drinks list of 18 new signature serves. We structured the list in a way that guests could simply and quickly order a drink by naming the cocktails according to their taste profiles, a good example would be Sea, Smoke & Sage or Gin, Pineapple & Spice.
For the guests who want to go deeper their is an explanation of each principle and we can talk them through how this concept translates into the final drink.
Could you provide a short summary of the Principles and how a drink in each section might complement that principle.
Wabu Sabi - a celebration of the impermanence of life and finding beauty in the ageing and ever-changing nature of objects. This section has a focus on natural products and include an element of ageing including Whisky, Honey, Chamomile - this drink is aged in beeswax over a period of two to three weeks.
Iki - It can be described as understated elegance, and simple sophistication, we would probably describe it as chic. None of these drinks are very showy, slightly muted. Gin, Peach and Chrysanthemum is simple, clean with a pink hue and light blue line running through it. The drink features Bombay Sapphire Gin, chrysanthemum, white peach, peach aperitif, absinthe mist and a eucalyptus paint.
Yugen - say more by saying less, allow the imagination to fill in the gaps. For me a good example of this is that mountains surrounded in mist offer the viewer to create their own ideas of how that range might look. The drinks in this section are hidden from view, we worked with a local ceramist to create vessels that obscured the drinker from seeing their colour and have used ingredients that people would find hard to make assumptions about. A great example is Plum, Vetiver, Tannin. Vetiver is an ingredient found in perfumes and highly aromatic, but you couldn't predict the flavour of the drink based on it's inclusion
Miyabi - unvulgar, exemplifies good taste and upbringing. If Iki is a little black dress this is a little more opulent but in good taste. The three drinks in this section have a floral alignment to them and Tequila, Apricots, Blossom is served on draft and includes a bespoke tea blend created in partnership with the Quinteassential Tea Company
Shibui - aesthetically simple but practical, I always tell people to think of the brand Muji to see this principle in action. This section was created with the idea that these would be drinks that people would keep coming back to. The Raspberry, Hibiscus, Champagne drink was always predicted to be popular and it has proved to be so and I'm happy to see how many people return to order the Lemon, Spice, Agave drink. Both drinks are highballs and this appears to be an increasingly popular style of drink.
Who do you take inspiration from?
My inspirations change depending upon what i am focused on at the time. I can say that I enjoy the challenge of keeping up with my friends and colleagues in the industry who are constantly producing new and interesting concepts. I admire how the Schofield Brothers have taken their bartending style across the world, Adam Day, Jack Wakelin at Public in Sheffield, Simon and Jake at Present Company and Mannie at Below Stairs are all people I admire for making great drinks whilst keeping that focus on their guests experience.
Where do you enjoy a drink in Manchester?
I love my local bar, Henry C in Chorlton, a great neighbourhood bar, strong cocktail menu and make you feel welcome and closer to Cottonopolis I enjoy the Jane Eyre, well chosen ingredients and whilst the drinks are great they aren't made the star of the show, customer service comes first.
Do you have a particular bar tending style or ethos?
In a lot of our research we were taken by how the Japanese celebrate and pay attention to aesthetics and beauty around them, Japanese businessmen who might sleep at their desks working incredibly hard will plan holidays and take time away to appreciate the brief few days of the cherry blossom or the first snowfall in winter.
In our way we would like our guests to take joy and appreciate our drinks between themselves.
It's not important for us for them to know the time and effort that has gone into producing many of the bespoke homemade ingredients that feature in these drinks as long as we serve up a delicious cocktail that the guest can enjoy and appreciate.
Guests can meet the team of Cottonopolis at Cocktails in the City on October 11-12th within Manchester's newest event space The Viadux.
Artwork and design by Gre Hale.
Photography by Lucas Smith