If anything celebrates the British love of getting drunk, it’s the new Alcoholic Architecture bar in London, where you absorb an alcoholic mist through your eyes while protecting your clothing with a plastic rain poncho. The bar is almost clinical in its approach to intoxication: You can also buy regular drinks, to give you something to pass the time while the booze-soaked mist sinks in.
This nightmare comes from designers Bompas & Parr and forms a section of a new gothic-themed bar in London’s Borough Market. This theme reflects the location–the venue is next door to “the U.K.’s earliest gothic cathedral.”
The Cloud, as the installation is called, is a section curtained off from the main bar by plastic sheeting. Inside, the atmosphere is pumped up to 140% relative humidity using humidifiers filled with a 1:3 solution of alcoholic beverage to mixer. The room fills with a dense fog, not unlike that on a dance floor after a smoke machine has been running. Customers, called “absorbers” here, can see almost nothing through the soupy atmosphere, only happening upon each other when they veer close to another plastic-suited patron.
Visits cost £10 ($15.50) and are limited to an hour at a time. I’m surprised that anyone can stick at it for so long–imagine wandering in a fog, wearing a plastic poncho, in humidity that makes a jungle feel like the Las Vegas desert. There seems little point in protecting your clothes from the vaporized cocktails, only so they can get soaked by your own booze-infused sweat.
The mist is absorbed through the lungs and the eyes. According to the designers, it is not processed by the liver. This, say Bompas and Parr “[allows] you to consume 40% less, with correspondingly reduced calories and headaches, to feel the same effect” as if you’d drunk the drink.
Forty minutes in the Cloud doses you with the equivalent of one “large” drink, which translates to taking a shot. Given the usual drinking rate in a London bar, this is pretty sedate. This shortfall is made up in regular liquid form though. Cocktails are pre-mixed to “cut the amount of time you have to wait at the bar before having a frosty beverage in your hand.”
What the Cloud really does is show up this nasty side of British drinking culture. Cocktails should be a gastronomic pleasure, like a fine wine or a single-malt Scotch. Inhaling them just to get drunk, and bypassing the taste sensation, is a little like mainlining a solution of foie gras. You might technically be partaking of an Old Fashioned or well-mixed Martini, but really you’re just getting high on fumes. At that point, you might as well be honest about it and go around the back to smoke a joint.