How Sexy Fish is changing how we think about cocktails with its Unity menu - as more people rethink their drinking habits

The new Unity menu is embracing low and no alcohol drinks, as well as traditional cocktails...

By Manchester's Finest | 18 June 2024

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You’d have had to have been living under a rock, in a cave, unplugged from all forms of media over the past couple of years to have missed the shift going on when it comes to booze.

The market for low and no alcohol drinks increased a massive 47% between 2022 and 2023, and is expected to be worth £800 million a year by 2028. Non-alcoholic bars are opening up, and the conversation is now less about ‘lager, lager, lager’ than it is broaching the fact that ‘cutting out isn’t missing out’.

Coming to table with their take on things, new Manchester arrival Sexy Fish is pitching its latest cocktail menu with that in mind. Called Unity, the new menu combines traditional cocktails with low or no alcohol versions, meaning that if you’re drinking, not drinking or having an intermission with alcohol, you can still enjoy a great drink in great surroundings.

We spoke to Dominic North and Cressida Lawlor, Sexy Fish’s elite bar managers, about the new concept…

Sexy Fish Unity

Tell us a bit about the whole Unity concept…

Cressida: “I think what makes Unity so exciting is the fact that we’re doing something that no one else has really done before. When you go into high-class cocktail bars you usually find non-alcoholic cocktails in a pokey section in the back of the menu with not much love. And what we’ve done with our menu is we’ve gone ‘you know what, we make world class drinks in a world class venue, with incredible staff who have infinite imagination, why are we just paying that attention to alcoholic drinks?’ We should be able to give this experience to anyone, whether you’re sober, whether you are not drinking, whatever you want to do. Alcohol free is an option that needs to be taken seriously.”

So how does it work?

Cressida: “What we’ve done is we’ve taken this menu and you have alcohol free on one side and alcoholic on the other side and we also offer six low ABV drinks. We want to make this as accessible as possible. That’s why it’s called Unity because we need to unify people who come into this venue. It’s about everyone.”

Which of the Unity cocktails is your personal favourite?

Dominic: “My favourite Unity cocktail is the Apple for several reasons. Firstly, it’s Manchester exclusive. And it’s always good to celebrate the creativity that comes from within our team. Secondly, I think it takes a very, I guess, boring flavour like Apple – in the UK it’s not an exotic or seductive thing to go for – but I think it kind of reimagines it. It pairs beautifully with Yamazaki. I think it’s great to kind of showcase whiskey, and that it can be used in a more accessible way. It also has an alcohol free counterpart, and a low ABV option as well. So it really covers all bases.”

Should cocktail bars be more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily drinking alcohol?

Dominic: “An easy trap for a lot of bartenders is they make a menu for themselves. And they make names that they think are clever and so on for themselves. And actually a person just coming in who just wants to have a nice time and a drink can’t relate to it. So accessibility is a huge thing. And something which has always irked me as a bartender is when people use the term mocktail, which just gets under my skin somewhat. What is it? Is it like a joke? Is it making fun of a cocktail? I think [we need to] acknowledge alcohol free and low ABV, especially within the bar industry. Managing a healthy relationship with alcohol is a challenge. And I think allowing people to come in and enjoy drinks and not have to have something super boozy is a is a real statement.

Do you think Sexy Fish has arrived in Manchester at the right time?

Cressida: “Manchester [is] really on the up at the moment, especially with the bar scene. You’ve got Red Light, you’ve got Schofield’s, you’ve got Project Halcyon and Sterling. You’ve got some incredible bars and more bars opening. It’s great that we get to come in here and showcase as well. [Manchester] is about to absolutely hit the ceiling. It’s gonna smash through and it’s going to be amazing.”

The Unity cocktail menu is available at Sexy Fish now.

1 The Avenue, Deansgate, Manchester M3 3AP