What’s the vibe?
A cocktail bar on Acid. The drinks menu is as long as your arm and includes every ingredient, from smoke and fire to Zombie Mix and Fairy Liquid. The décor seems to glow gold and copper, and shape-shifting light projections adorn the walls; the effect is intoxicating in every sense. It’s all great fun, and gloriously over the top. Forget paying £15 to drink fruity ice from a jar with a slice of dried orange in the top. This is how cocktails are supposed to be.
What’s the story?
First emerging from Spinningfields, Manchester (a historical district known for opium dens and gin houses) the Alchemist bars are designed with an air of mystery and a nod to the dark arts. The cocktails are creative and original, but what really elevates the place is the dose of theatre they shake into the mix. Don’t worry, your waiter isn’t going to burst into song or embark on a soliloquy, but you might get a Bunsen burner and test tube brewing your 'Mad Hatter' and transforming it into a teacup before your eyes.
There’s even a range of augmented-reality cocktails
What to order?
Whether you want to mix potions at Hogwarts, or rip Tanqueray from a smoking bong, the Alchemist’s 'molecular mixologists' will conjure up something to satisfy. There’s the Zombie Apocalypse: a swirling, smoking, supernatural concoction that I could have kept drinking until I looked like an extra from the walking dead, or the Caramelised Rum Punch which ignites into a four-foot flambé (from a safe distance, though, posing no threat to those of us who enjoy having eyebrows).
There’s even a range of augmented-reality cocktails, and who can say no to a virtual hula girl dancing around your Sailor Jerry? (no, not like that.) The drinks look great on the Instagram story too, much better than another picture of that ‘Well behaved women don’t make history’ sign, anyway.
How's the Food?
While it’s probably fair to say the food plays second fiddle to the cocktail menu, there is a good range of tasty morsels on offer to sustain you through your cocktail odyssey. The options are exotic and adventurous – try the crispy prawn lollipops or the sizzling fajitas – but just like the booze they manage to create spectacle without straying into gimmick territory. OK, I admit there’s a bit of gimmickry, but come on! My dessert was on fire!
Will it bankrupt me?
I could see myself spending long enough down this particular rabbit hole to do permanent damage to my credit score, but that says more about the range of temptations on offer than about the prices, which are fairly reasonable.
Even so, maybe save this one for that third date when you are sure you want to make a big impression, not for that first date who had a nice profile but you suspect might have given their pet rabbit a surname.
Anything else to note?
On the night of my visit, they were running the Burning Man Exchange, where punters were offered a free cocktail in exchange for a food donation to a local poverty organisation, so they are good people as well as good cocktail makers.
It’s limited to one per person though, so don’t turn up with five lasagnas and expect to get hammered for free.
6 Bevis Marks, London EC3A 7BA thealchemist.uk.com