London’s Bompas & Parr is the design duo behind a lot of truly unusual projects that stretch the limit of how we think about and experience food and drink. Previous creations include an actual steamship set in jelly, air fresheners with scents inspired by the apocalypse, and a chewing gum factory with 40,000 taste combinations. Sam Bompas and Harry Parr are interested in “states of flavor,” and their latest tasty creation, Alcoholic Architecture has just opened in iconic London food destination Borough Market. And it’s different, to say the least: the main attention-grabber is the walk-in booze cloud, a “breathable cocktail” that sees alcohol enter the bloodstream of visitors through primarily the lungs, but also the eyeballs.
At the entrance to the small room that houses the cloud, visitors are met by a sign encouraging them to “breathe responsibly.” It’s a necessary caution—once you’re in the cloud, it’s all too tempting to take deep drags of the curiously sticky “air,” which is actually fine spirits and a mixer that have been humidified. The design duo came up with the idea after creating jellies that were essentially “solid cocktails,” says Bompas. “We thought, why not go to the other extreme and make alcohol in a gas shape? The result is an inhabitable landscape of alcohol.” Staying in the cloud for an hour is equivalent to drinking a large gin and tonic, but it takes a lot less time than that to start getting that slightly tipsy feeling. The design duo worked with space scientists to make Alcoholic Architecture possible, and the result really is like something from a science-fiction film—or the world’s most enjoyable steam sauna.
The designers, who first made a gin and tonic cloud in 2009, say Alcoholic Architecture (which was originally, aptly, called Clouded Judgement) had been an ambition for a long time, but they needed the perfect space. When a former monastery at Borough Market became available, they found it. “The fact that it’s in an old monastery has been a source of inspiration,” Bompas tells CH. “We did a lot of research into the monks.” The cocktail list at Alcoholic Architecture is inspired by the surroundings and features concoctions like the “Friar Tucked,” which counts Bénédictine liqueur among its ingredients. And for anyone with a taste for the macabre who wants another unusual drinking experience, Alcoholic Architecture also has a cocktail that comes served in an actual human skull (which, for hygiene’s sake, has been covered in resin.)
Alcoholic Architecture is at 1 Cathedral Street, SE1 9DE London now until January 2016.
Images by Cajsa Carlson