Alcoholic Architecture combines a moody atmosphere and inhalable spirits in a breathable bar experience.
If you’re generally into alcohol and high-end design, you’re probably already familiar with Bompas & Parr. For those of you who are not, get ready to become obsessed. B&P is a studio that fuses design and cuisine, inspiring awe with their Mad Hatter installations. In the past, they’ve exposed happy clients to gustatory fireworks (like the Flavor Organ, which uses music to heighten drink flavors), not only captivating their minds but also their palates. Now they’ve set up a 6-month installation of—wait for it—a breathable bar.
These Willy Wonkas have made an adult chocolate factory, minus the chocolate. and it goes by the name of Alcoholic Architecture. Walking past the produce of Borough Market, step inside the Victorian home that houses Alcoholic Architecture, and be transported to a different era, ambiance, and atmosphere. (A very humid, alcohol drenched atmosphere.)
The cloud in the chamber is infused with alcohol so that imbibers become breathers, inhaling their libations rather than sipping them.
“With Alcoholic Architecture we are going for maximal intensity of cocktail experience,” says Harry Parr, director of Bompas & Parr. “With every breath you take, notice a fresh botanical or flavor in the spirit that can be hard to discern in a regular drink. Taste the cloud, savor the sky.”
Because of the high humidity level, customers are given a hooded cape to protect their clothes and hair, giving the clientele a look mixed between a monk and Walter White. The entire look has a monkish-Miami feel, inspired by a faux-medieval, punk look. Stay time is limited to one hour per evening, which is just the right of time to get nice and toasty.
The staff, of course, is in full theme, wearing Olivia Hegarty-designed uniforms that, as the team says “combine the flair of the continental waiter with the ecclesiastical swagger of a dandified cleric.” On top of these rad outfits, when the staff enters the cloud, they avoid getting trashed (or this being London, “pissed”) by wearing gas masks. If this isn’t weird enough for you yet, go hang out in the ladies room to meet the bar’s pet, an albino python named. Her name is Sable.
History here is respected in a reverent yet ultimately kitschy way. Alcoholic Architecture is located next to a Gothic Cathedral and on an ancient monastery site, so B&P felt it was important to pay reverence to the monks through the drinks. The beers and cocktails are all created by monks, including, “potations such as Chartreuse, Benedictine, Trappist beer, and even the notorious Buckfast – a fortified wine so savage that Scotland’s Parliament is reportedly drafting legislation to stop the caffeinated intoxicant from entering their country.” They’ve nailed the description of the theme with their own words: medieval meets Miami.
“Creatively, the installation draws inspiration from Borough Market’s produce, medieval history and weather to create a sci-fi fantasy where meteorology and mixology collide,” explains Sam Bompas, director of Bompas & Parr. “Visiting Alcoholic Architecture will generate the same sort of awe and wonder we have all probably experienced when gazing up at the night’s sky. Imagine Disney meets De Sade in Barbarella’s castle by way of Medieval Times with flagons of ale!”
But how exactly does it work? Working with respiratory scientists and chemists, B&P started researching how to set up a breathable alcohol chamber; that was six years ago. Humidifiers are used to saturate the air, with a ratio of spirits to mixer of 1:3, making the humidity in the room 140% and very palpable. The alcohol enters the bloodstream mainly through the lungs and eyeballs as well.
So now that how has been covered, let’s venture to ask: why? Mainly fun, but also a touch of health. Benefits include less strain on the liver and fewer calories for the same effect. Another reason to inhale your drink rather than slurp it is the enhanced flavor: smelling and aspiring the cocktail activates other perceptions and senses of the spirit. And if the cloud isn’t enough, there are always the monk-inspired cocktails to gain that extra edge. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try the one served out of a real human skull.
When asked if Alcoholic Architecture is possibly coming to this side of the Atlantic, Bompas answered, “Absolutely! We’re always interested in bringing our inventions to people across the globe. The drinking rituals in America are fascinating so bringing the concept to life would be another way to blow peoples brains.”
Until then, we can enjoy one of their six bizarre books about food and drink, and plan a trip to London by January 2016. It’s almost too tempting to resist.