At one London bar, your drink will take you to Scotland and back.
“It really does transport you across the Highlands of Scotland, over fields and bridges…and having spent time in Scotland, it really is that breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful. Quite, quite different to London.” When Alice Revel, founder of the digital women’s magazine Running In Heels, said those words recently, she wasn’t talking about a helicopter flight or a hot air balloon ride over the Isles. She wasn’t even talking about a real trip to Scotland. She was a customer sitting in The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych in London, sipping the Origin ordered off the bar’s new menu, a whisky cocktail that comes garnished with an orange twist—and an immersive virtual reality experience.
“We don’t say anything on our menu about virtual reality, but we do drop a hint in saying, ‘Take a trip to the Highlands,’” says the drink’s creator, bar manager Pedro Paulo. “When someone orders it, we give the guest virtual reality goggles and a headset and explain we are taking you to the origin of the drink. You fly to the distillery where the whisky in the drink is aged, and then to the fields of barley and to the water source.” After soaring over the highlands, the virtual experience concludes with you floating back into The Lobby Bar, where a bartender makes the drink and slides it over the bar to you. “You remove the goggles and the drink is right there, presented in the exact same way,” Paulo says.
Paulo worked with Dalmore Whisky—a distillery on the shores of the Cromarty Firth in the Highlands of Scotland—to access some of the dramatic imagery. However, he also wrote the script and used directors and drones to create other sections of the virtual video. The drink has only been on the menu for two weeks, and when someone puts on the goggles, there’s definitely a domino effect, with more patrons requesting their own virtual-reality-infused drink. The bar sold 30 of them on the menu’s debut night.
“In a finished drink, there are barrels and fields and places that go into making it,” Paulo says. “Giving this knowledge was my main motivation. It’s an experience beyond the drink, and they will remember it.”
It’s particularly interesting given The Lobby Bar’s setting. Most guests come before or after a nearby theater experience (the new menu is called Showtime Cocktails, and is theater themed) and in creating The Origin, the bar hopes to spark deeper conversation. How does technology play against the traditional entertainment of having a drink? Do you love live art over simulation? It’s something a few other brands have dabbled in, as well. Patrón Tequila launched a virtual reality experience in late 2015 from the perspective of a bee, similarly aimed at showing guests how tequila is made from ground-to-glass. It was available at select parties and events thrown by the brand that year.
“It was a little sweeter than I’d have anticipated,” offers Revel of the actual sip, “with punchy flavors; scents reminiscent of heather and wildflowers, deep and smoky notes of wood and forests.”
Specifically, The Origin is a blend of Dalmore 12-Year-Old Whisky, Merlet Soeurs Cerises cherry liqueur, cherry puree, and fresh grapefruit juice, with chocolate bitters and Lallier Champagne and it costs 18 pounds. It will be on the menu until spring of 2018, so you have plenty of time to try (and experience) it.