Cocktail fans in London will want to take deep breaths when they enter a pop-up bar that opens on Thursday, July 30, on the site of an ancient monastery in Borough.
Alcoholic Architecture features a walk-in cloud of cocktail that's composed of fine spirits and mixer at a ratio of 1:3. It's made using powerful humidifiers to super-saturate the air. Alcohol enters the bloodstream mainly through the lungs but also the eyeballs. Guests are advised to "breathe responsibly."
It's the project of Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, two friends who specialize in experiences based around flavor. Previous Bompas & Parr events included one at which whiskies were consumed from the contours of bodies of people the same age as the drink. (Don't worry: They were rare 25- to 39-year-old single malts.)
Guests will descend through a series of dimly lit passages into a monastic-themed changing room, where they will robe up in protective clothing to prevent them from smelling like a cocktail when they go home. After that, it's into a crypt-like bar that appears to have been hewn out of rock. The drinks will be based on those made by monks, including Chartreuse, Benedictine, Trappist beer, and Buckfast fortified wine. From there, it is a short step into the cocktail chamber.
"Inside, the sound is modulated, so that it is like you are right inside the glass," Parr says. "It's a dense atmosphere that builds into a thunderstorm with lightning. It's a new way of experiencing drink, and it's social because it's an immersive shared environment. You all have the same flavor sensation.
"It's like going to the seaside and finding that fish and chips taste better. Part of that is that in a human environment, your ability to perceive taste is heightened. It's the opposite of being in an aeroplane. Alcohol tastes better, with more nuances: You can detect more subtle flavors when it is humidified."
Guests will be allocated one-hour time slots so they don't have time to get drunk on the atmosphere, which Parr estimates at one unit of alcohol per hour. Entry is £10 ($15.60), or £12.50 at peak times. Canonical Cocktails from the bar will cost £8 and Sacred Shots £5. Mixed drinks for sharing include a loving cup made from a human skull.
The bar is managed for Bompas & Parr by Johnny Brissenden, formerly a bartender at Tony Conigliaro's Bar Termini and Soho House Group.
Bompas & Parr started gaining wide attention when they created a vibrating jelly for chef Heston Blumenthal that was powered by a sex toy. Other projects include Mercedes Drive Thru, a pulsating light installation that illuminated as diners drove through it, and a carnal carnival at the Museum of Sex in New York.
Alcoholic Architecture will be open until early 2016 at One Cathedral Street, Borough Market, London, SE1 9DE. Tickets and further information are available at bompasandparr.com.
Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines.
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