Monday, 31 August 2015

Breathe Responsibly: Alcoholic Architecture

Drinking is sooooo last year. Didn't you know?

No, me neither (and it's totally not true anyway).

However, a new alcoholic experience has hit London, and it's one that requires you to do nothing but breathe. Is it drinking for lazy people? For the adventurous? Or drinking for the calorie concious? Who knows, but I headed to Alcoholic Architecture in Borough Market to find out. 

Alcoholic Architecture has been devised by flavour experimentalists Bompas & Parr, who you might know through their insane jelly skills. Founded in 2007, they've made glow-in-the-dark jelly for Mark Ronson's birthday, held scratch-and-sniff film screenings in Edinburgh, and installed bright green rowing lake bars on top of Selfridges. So, creating a walk-in cloud of breathable cocktail is obviously the next logical step... Obviously. 

We're told as we arrive that we're "about to enter a world where meteorology, mixology and monasticism collide." It's located on the site of a former monastery you see, next to London's oldest Gothic cathedral, and the cloud pays tribute to monks and other religious orders that have been responsible for creating iconic liquors over the centuries (think Chartreuse, Benedictine, Trappist beers, etc.) 

It's the world's first alcoholic weather system for your tongue; a fully immersive alcohol environment that explodes drinks to the scale of architecture. The cloud - or probably more accurately, the fog - is entirely composed of  spirits and mixer at a ratio of 1:3. With humidity at a whopping 140%, there is so much alcohol in the air that you can't see more than a metre in front of you. It's a moist experience, but you don't need to worry about your clothes; you get handed a rather fetching poncho upon entry!

Performance plays a big part in this; from queuing with other excited strangers, being given a fun-but-formal introduction explaining that the alcohol enters your bloodstream primarily through the lungs but also through the eyeballs (erm... gross!), trekking down the dark staircase not knowing where you're going, donning your plastic poncho and then entering the vapourised booze via the neon 'Breathe Responsibly' sign. There's also a time limit that adds to the drama; you can only stay for an hour to make sure that you don't over do it! 

An alter style bar serves proper cocktails too; you can take them into the cloud to double your intake - whaaaay - and the menu is comprised of all the ye olde spirits and beers made by monks. Heavenly Tonics (all £6) include Buckfast, a fortified wine so savage that some Scottish politicians are calling for a ban of the caffeinated intoxicant, and a frankincense-smoked G&T - swoon. Canonical Cocktails (£8) might make you 'Friar Tucked' thanks to the mix of Bénédictine, brandy, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe, and Sacred Shots for a fiver include the Dirty Habit; equal measures of Buckfast and Scotch whisky... Oof. There are actually some 'Celibate' drinks on the list, emulating the taste of some of the potent spirits, but let's face it, no one is here to stay sober! 

The cloud cocktail changes every hour, and upon my visit, it was a classic gin and tonic. The environment is meant to allow you to deconstruct and better appreciate the nuance and flavour of spirits as you enjoy them in a completely different way. Did it taste like a G&T? No, I don't think it did. It wasn't very juniper-y, but it definitely had a bitter element of quinine about it. 

As interesting as Alcoholic Architecture was, I much preferred drinking my luminous green Chartreuse, celery bitters and tonic (excellent combination FYI). It probably didn't help that we went on the hottest bloody day in August either; after a day spent waltzing round London in a sweltering 30 degrees, wrapping up in a giant plastic bag and entering a boozy steam room for an hour was never going to be a truly pleasurable experience.

An experience it was though, and it's worth visiting to see what all the fuss is about; in 60 minutes you might even find your spiritual side! 

Bompas & Parr's Alcoholic Architecture runs until early 2016 and tickets are available through Biletto priced at £10, or £12.50 at peak times. Find it at 1 Cathedral Street, Borough Market, London, SE1 9DE. 


  1. When we were in Borough Market we saw this place and wondered what was inside, so I'm glad you found out for us!

    Honeybourne Line

    1. Hehe, and now you have until January to go back and experience it all for yourself if you like the sound of it? :-D