So what do you do in London when you want to try something different? Well there’s plenty on offer; London is not a city short of new and interesting experiences. A case in point is Bompas & Parr’s Alcoholic Architecture, recently opened next to Borough Market. I stumbled across it whilst browsing Time Out’s website and booked it on a whim, having heard nothing about it.
So what exactly is Alcoholic Architecture? Well, Bompas & Parr describe the installation on their website as “an alcoholic weather system for your tongue where meteorology and mixology collide against a canvas of monastic mayhem”. Put a bit more intelligibly, their idea was to create an alcoholic cloud that you can taste, breathe in and even absorb through your eyeballs. Presumably with an aim to get you drunk more easily and more quickly, because actually drinking cocktails is so passé, right?Oh, and deliver it all in the style of monks, because, well why not?
The venue location is a historic area of London, that is also home to Southwark Cathedral, so the alcohol on offer is entirely comprised of drinks that were created using monastic brewing methods – Chartreuse, Trappist Beer and even the infamous Buckfast to name just a few. Having never tried any of these (except maybe a swig of Bucky in my youth) I was interested to know what this cloud would taste like, if it had any taste at all.
Arriving at the address, we queued for our slot alongside about twenty other people. The staff who checked us in were dressed in white robes and stamped our hands with a symbol that seemed to come straight out of the runic alphabet – all adding to the slightly peculiar historic atmosphere. We entered a darkened corridor, descended some steps and put on a plastic poncho. I thought this was so we wouldn’t get too wet, but apparently your skin has to be mostly covered because otherwise you would absorb even more alcohol through it. Should have worn a t-shirt…
We entered the room and I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting it to be so discombobulating – you can barely see a metre in front of your hands – but it all adds to the slightly odd atmosphere. As you work your way into the room, you have no idea who else is in there or where they are; the sound of clinking and chanting gets pumped out of the speakers and lights change colour as the taste of the air changed. We ordered a couple of cocktails and got right into the mix.
Your allocated time slot is an hour, which is probably just the right amount of time. The air was very wet and tasted kind of sweet, but it was difficult to distinguish between the different tastes on offer. My nose kept running with alcohol condensing in it, which was a first for me. But I must admit I didn’t feel even slightly drunk after all that inhaling. I guess I was expecting a little bit of a buzz, given I was in a room of alcohol at 4 p.m. with a cocktail and a half in my end. But there you go – it was a fun experience, and cool to try something a bit off the beaten path.
I also learnt that apparently one of the biggest upsides of inhaling your cocktails is that they are crucially missing out on the calories you would normally take in by drinking your drink. So what’s not to like? It made me think – is this a view of the future? Where we pay to get into clubs and simply absorb our drinks via the air con? It seems pretty novel, but for me there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of sipping on a drink (preferably with some honey bourbon in!). But I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on Bompas & Parr’s website to see what they’ve got up their sleeve next. Who knows what could happen!