I promised myself that I’d seek out new and exciting drinks and experiences as part of this blog, so when I got wind of the Alchemist’s latest foray into the world of augmented reality, I knew I had to try it. Therefore on a random sunny Tuesday I surprised Holly with a mate date and we headed to the Alchemist on Greek Street in Leeds. I’ve been to a few of their bars before (somehow I’ve had some kind of members card with them since about 2013 but I still have no idea what it does) but this was my first time in this venue.
I have to admit it wasn’t a strong start to the night… having booked in advance I was expecting two drinks per person plus three items from the sharing menu for £30. When we arrived, we were then informed it was actually three drinks each! Fast forward five minutes, it was reduced to one drink each… the manager agreed that the wording on the website wasn’t clear so we agreed on two drinks each. Now that’s cleared up, let’s order some booze!
You’re each given a menu with a limited but well curated list of cocktails, six in total using an array of spirits and flavours. Being a total booze hound with an unwavering sweet tooth, I was drawn straight away to the Sailors Punch… I wouldn’t usually go with a dark rum but the addition of banana and coconut intrigued me. While waiting for our drinks, we ordered food too – everything on the sharing menu is a crowd-pleasing, easy to eat, fun and fattening sort of affair which is exactly what we were after. Mac and cheese balls, halloumi sticks and the most amazing filled churros. I would go back just for the churros.
Our drinks arrived on a giant bar mat, each drink has it’s own corresponding graphic diagram which triggers the augmented app. At first, I thought me and Holly had the same bar mat and that the app recognised each cocktail as a serve! That would have been impressive but the bar mats looked great and added another element of theatre.
We had downloaded the app indicated on the menu and cracked on with seeing what it was all about. For each drink, the screen popped up with illustrated worlds relating to the beverage – I saw pirates, hula girls, ships, clouds skulls and guns with my rum drink. You could also swipe up to see the exact ingredients and ratio in the drink, which I really liked. Our second drink was a ‘Gelato’ – Amaretto, lemon sours and syrup, finished playfully with a Flake and dry ice! This came to life with illustrations around ice cream, bugs and eyeballs. I’m not sure why either. The app also listed the ingredient ‘lecithin’ which I’ve seen my mum take as a supplement. Again, I’m not entirely sure where that’s come from but I’m open to learning about what it’s doing in a drink!
The augmented reality aspect of the drinks was a bit of silly fun on the side of some sophisticated and balanced mixology. A great move for the Alchemist; their signature theatrical flourish was still present with dry ice, bottles stuck into beautifully crushed ice, and wonderful flavours all round.
It works, but only as a novelty. I imagine it might be a good sort of date night ice-breaker but if you’re anything like me, it might results in a minor existential crisis wondering why I’ve paid money and time to stare at a bizarre eyeball animation on my phone while I try and drink a miniscule cocktail with a Flake halfway up my nose. Cheers!