Leeds city center cocktail bar The Hedonist uses art instead of words to describe the drinks on its new menu

The hedonist The cocktail bar, in Lower Briggate, has created a new menu where gallery-style artwork is used to describe the drinks.

The menu, launching this week, will see the bar “return to its roots” as one of the quirkiest places in the city center – and take inspiration from some of the great artists of the 20th century.

Sam Wood, Head of Beverage Development at hedonist, said: “We’ve always done some pretty crazy things here, especially in the past. Before, it was a concept bar where we destroyed the whole interior every three months and started over.

‘We want to do something unique and interesting’ – Sam Wood is pictured making a cocktail called Sage against the Machine. (Photo: Simon Hulme)

“We were doing things like having a downhill ski lodge, a gin and tonic kitchen, an American saloon type thing. We ended up settling on the theme of a friendly neighborhood bar.

“But with this new menu and our history of pushing boundaries, we wanted to get back to our roots a bit.”

After brainstorming, the team came up with a ‘gallery cocktail menu’, a sensory menu in which the cocktails are described by works of art rather than words.

“We commissioned eight images that represent the drinks we had created,” Sam added. “Each individual painting is a completely different art style.

The hedonist, Briggate, has been a staple of the Leeds cocktail scene for almost eight years. (Photo: Simon Hulme)

“Rather than having classic drink names and flavor descriptions, we have a portrait on one side and a description of the feeling it evokes.

“Instead of choosing drinks based on flavors, we want people to choose their drink based on the artwork and the feelings it inspires.”

The menu takes inspiration from artists like Jackson Pollock and Norman Rockwell, with names like ‘Life’s a Peach’, ‘Sage Against the Machine’, ‘Orange Mingle’ and ‘Hepburn’.

“We had a brainstorm, talking about the drinks and the feelings the drinks evoke in us,” he said. “We don’t want to be too pretentious though – if you really want to go all the way and see what’s in the drink, there’s a glossary!

“We hope for interaction with our customers on this – we pride ourselves on our level of service.

“We just want people to have fun with it – we have that artistry and we care about the drinks we make. We want to make something unique and interesting.”

Sam has worked at the Hedonist for just under two years, having spent time at various other independent cocktail bars in Leeds over the years. According to him, what distinguishes the hedonist from his competitors?

“I would say creativity is the thing,” he said. “I have worked in high volume bars and restaurants – they all have their strengths and weaknesses, but the main difference between many places and the hedonist is that they are fully invested in their people. They believe that if you have a good idea and you have a reasoning behind it, you can accept anything.”

Christopher S. Washington