How a Parisian Bar Took a Major Step Toward Inclusivity by Creating a Cocktail Menu Focused on Texture

Yes, texture does play a role in your drinking experience.

<p>CopperBay; Le Photographe de Dimanche</p>

CopperBay; Le Photographe de Dimanche

Neurodiversity is not one-size-fits-all. Many neurodivergent people (including folks with autism, ADHD, OCD, and dyslexia) can have a particular affinity or aversion to certain textures, which is just one reason why as a neurodivergent person, I think the new cocktail menu at CopperBay, a bar in Paris, is a dream come true.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, to be neurodivergent just means that a person’s brain works in a way outside of what is considered a societal standard. My new favorite show, Love on the Spectrum, is a prime example of the beauty of neurodiversity.

But as someone with ADHD, certain textures send me reeling — especially when it comes to food. I’ve always disdained stews and chunky soups because there can be a lot of what I could consider to be conflicting textures; My mom (who has a particularly strong aversion and affection towards specific textures) is the type of person who will buy an entire wardrobe based on how soft a piece of fabric is, and will swipe her hand through racks at TJMaxx until she finds an especially pleasing texture.

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Whether you are neurodivergent or not, texture plays a huge part in the experiences of drinking and eating. While CopperBay’s textures menu was not created specifically for neurodivergent people, do I feel like it was made with us in mind? Absolutely.

The growing CopperBay franchise (which currently has three locations across Paris and Marseille) is the creation of three associates-turned-friends who didn’t want any investors involved in their dream. Every 12 months starting in May, the team launches a new theme for their bar menu.

Initially, the founders wanted each theme to be focused on techniques but expanded into traversing the senses through spirits. One previous theme, perception (a word that means “the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses” according to Webster’s Dictionary) primarily focused on awareness through sight and making clear (or clarified) versions of drinks that we associate with certain colors. For example, an Espresso Martini is associated with its iconic black-coffee-brown color, but their version was clear; the menu also featured a Blue Hawaiian which still had a hint of blue, but looked more like the idyllic waters of the Caribbean. While their perception menu focused on the sense of sight and cocktails looking different than expected, the textures menu is an experiment in touch and mouthfeel.

The cocktails have names like Silky, Fizzy, Creamy, and Oily, and guests receive a small square breakdown of what’s in the cocktail covered by a swatch of the chosen texture. This kind of multi-sensory menu encourages patrons to tap into their bodies, slow down, and encounter drinks in a new and playful way. Some of the most popular items on this menu are Jelly, Oily, and Limpid; Jelly is a play on a Spicy Margarita with a homemade sweet and sour mix with Lapsang Souchong, which is a woody-flavored black tea — it’s accompanied by a small side of jelly, too. Creating the Oily cocktail was a labor of love for the CopperBay team, because they didn’t want the oil to overwhelm the drink. Limpid, which is CopperBay’s best-seller from the textures menu, is also the one that gives patrons the most pause. This drink has rum, cranberry, and a surprise ingredient – curry – which is not usually associated with the crystalline clearness that is implied through limpid...but it works!  “Limpid is not easy for people to define,” says Aurélie Panhelleux, one of the founders of CopperBay. “Everyone has their own idea of what limpid means and people need cocktails like that on your menu.”

“When it comes to eating, people can easily identify textures,” says Panhelleux. “When it comes to drinking, people think, ‘Well, a liquid is a liquid.’ But, no! You can also have different textures when you drink.” While providing guests with a pleasurable drinking experience is always a priority, Panhelleux and her team want people to understand how they incorporate textures into their drinks, too.

As someone with ADHD, I’ve always been pretty easily distracted and I have multiple points of focus and trains of thoughts racing during a conversation. While this is my superpower in some spaces, it can also cause issues. Most days it can feel like I’m trapped in an amphitheater of thoughts in my head, so I need to find ways to structure my thoughts and move my focus outward. Grounding exercises are helpful to me in keeping focus and maintaining a clear line of thought. Some of my go-to grounding exercises involve touch and noticing textures around me. With many cocktails operating within a similar scope of texture and temperature, what drew me in about this texture-focused menu is how it incorporates a kinaesthetic drinking experience that allows people like me to get out of our minds and into our bodies to be more fully present when having a cocktail.

Being able to access one experience (like a cocktail) through multiple senses (touch, sight, and taste) helps me to increase my focus on every aspect of the thing that’s in front of me. So, from starting the experience with feeling the texture of the cocktail on a fabric swatch to then encountering the texture through mouthfeel, this menu emphasizes the physical experience of a libation. I would imagine that this menu is also a breath of fresh air for people with dyslexia because, while the ingredients are still written down, choosing a cocktail isn’t solely dependent upon what’s on the page. People who have learning disabilities that can make reading in public spaces very stressful, like dyslexia, can feel what kind of cocktail they want and relax more into spending time with loved ones at the bar.

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