The augmented reality cocktails at City Social are out of this world
World Best Bar
Apr 25, 2018
26 November 2020
One step further than reality…
Not to be confused with virtual reality – in which a simulated world replaces the real one – augmented reality enhances your normal perception of reality by overlaying it with new sensory elements. Remember Pokémon Go? Then you’ve got an idea of how it all works. Only this time, it’s slightly more grown-up and quite a bit more high-brow. Each of the 12 cocktails at City Social is inspired by a piece of art from throughout the ages; Van Gogh, Warhol and Banksy all get a look in on this bar’s innovative menu.
Two years in the making, the augmented reality cocktails were developed by award-winning bartender Jamie Jones, bar manager Tim Laferla, and app company Mustard Design to form the MIRAGE menu. The purpose-built app that accompanies them aims to transform your perception of the cocktails, colouring your surroundings with vivid animations in a futuristic take on mixology.
Here’s how it works:
- Before you get your drinks, you download the MIRAGE app from the Apple or Google app store.
It’s pretty heavy, so you may want to wait till you actually arrive at *City Social* and take advantage of their specially installed superfast (and free) Wi-Fi instead.
- Choose from one of the 12 bespoke cocktails.
Order at the bar and get ready for a visual and taste sensation.
- Then, in the low-lit bar, you scan your phone over the glow-in-the-dark coaster.
Recognising the image, the app superimposes art from the corresponding era onto your cocktail, with animations starting to pop out and dance around your drink. As the folks at City Social describe it, “cocktails become interactive art.”
Plenty of cocktails on the menu grab attention purely by description. If you’re in a macabre mood, go for the Calavera. At £14, this long serve is based on Don Julio Blanco, but coloured red thanks to its blood orange, pomegranate, sangrita spice and blossom water. Viewed through the app, this tequila cocktail is surrounded by skeletons in suits, strumming guitars.
Decadent in both its ingredients and £29 price tag is the Sashay. It’s made of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque and Japanese plum wine, delicately fragranced by burlesque bitters, jasmine and liquorice. Art Nouveau in inspiration, it pictures a painted woman lying at the bottom of your glass, sipping on a similar cocktail and blowing kisses.
If you came to see the Van Gogh, then your drink of choice is the Wheatfields With Fizz. A bubbling blend of Ketel One, St Germain, lager, bee pollen, elderflower, and egg white, this £14 cocktail aims to immerse you in the dreamlike country landscapes of the Dutch painter’s iconic Wheatfields series.
The most intriguing, however, has got to be Huracan. Bursting with animations inspired by the ancient Mayan kingdom, it blends cacao bitters with walnut oil, oloroso sherry and salted honey into a Ron Zacapa base. It costs £19.
One step further than augmented reality…?
The offering of meticulously crafted cocktails using a range of techniques, flavour profiles, and creatively sourced ingredients already makes for quite a sensorial adventure in itself. Using technology to bring the drinks to life takes the experience to a new, almost hallucinogenic level. This is truly the stuff that a synaesthete’s fantasy is made of. And why stop here? In the future, bars could very well meld augmented reality with virtual reality, pushing at barriers of space and time to really expand the drinking experience. Imagine future super-sensory cocktails like Sand & Soleil, where a blend of coconut water, sea salt, Chairman’s Reserve, and anise could transport you to a beach in St Lucia. Or Glacial Fever, an icy mix of mint, capsicum, Reyka vodka and ash that hurtles you back to the Pleistocene period. The creative possibilities are endless, and in a drinks landscape keen to reinvent itself continuously, City Social’s augmented reality cocktails could very well be the exciting shape of things to come.
And should the zombie Mariachis or the 19th century muse blowing kisses from the bottom of your glass fail hold your attention, there’s always plain old unadorned reality. City Social is located on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in Old Broad Street, overlooking London’s own visual cocktail of glittering steel and glass amidst an oyster blue sky. Needless to say, the cityscape from this high up is breathtaking. City Social is also a Michelin-starred restaurant, priding itself on classic dishes with a creative twist. Clearly the digital reincarnation of cocktails is far from this venue’s only draw, although they may be the most envy-inducing on Instagram.
So go along and snap your glass of Calavera, surrounded by guitar-plucking skeletons, 250 feet above London. Then put down the phone and delve into the complex, almost culinary detail of these cocktails which are in and of themselves top-notch, augmented reality or not.
Photo by @citysocialbar on Instagram