Are You Experienced? An Evening in the Whistling Shop Cocktail Emporium

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The history of rum in six parts, with added voodoo skulls

Hello sailor

A few weeks before Fluid Movement’s latest venue, The Worship Street Whistling Shop, opened, BarLifeUK were invited to come and have a poke around. Tristan Stephenson, one of the Directors, told us about his plans to create a ‘multi-sensory experience’ in a small room separate to the main bar called the Cocktail Emporium.

For anyone who has watched Heston Blumenthal’s Feast shows, the idea is an intriguing one – a night of experimental cocktails telling a story and accompanied by food, visuals, piped aromas and sounds. Thus, we were suitably excited when an invitation to their first such night, entitled The History of Rum, appeared in the BarLifeUK inbox last week.

The Cocktail Emporium

The rum proofing ceremony from the 'Grog' session

The Cocktail Emporium is a very small room, with bare brick walls, a wooden table and space for 7 or 8 people. A projector hanging from the ceiling is the only indication that things other than eating and drinking are afoot and it feels a cosy and intimate space.

Once everyone was seated, Tristan left us alone in the room and the lights dimmed. Shortly after, a sweet, floral smell and music began to pervade the room (BarLifeUK is ashamed to admit to not knowing the name of music from the colonial plantation period in history) and the projector flickered to life.

Images of plantation life appeared, through which Tristan, in impeccable period dress, re-entered the room, carrying a bowl and cups. In the bowl were the constituent parts of a flip, which was then heated with an enormous electric salamander, more usually employed to caramelize the tops of crème brulee.

Tristan gave a short explanation of this period in rum’s history, the significance of the ingredients in the flip and how the salamander replicated the use of a hogshead to heat the brew. We were then left to enjoy some food to complement the flip and discuss events so far.

This process was repeated for five other significant periods in rum’s history, providing a complete journey accompanied by drinks, smells, visuals and food of the era.

The Rum Experiences

  • Colonial Flip: 1600s
  • Grog: 1700s
  • Punch: 1800s
  • Cuban Cocktails: 1920s
  • Voodoo Skulls: 1940s
  • Rum and Cola: Present day

Recounting the specifics of each portion of the History of Rum experience will take this article into the realms of War and Peace, and also, not knowing what happens next is half the fun so we shan’t spoil it for those readers who would like to see it for themselves.

Surfice it to say, BarLifeUK enjoyed the experience very much. My only reservation about the Cocktail Emporium, prior to visiting it, was that it might be a bit stuffy, and, dare I say it, ‘up itself’.

This was absolutely not the case; there was much laughter (often because Tristan’s costumes had more than a whiff of camp about them), the history was delivered with humour, and the size of the room and small number of guests made the whole thing feel friendly.

Even a casual observer would notice the care, effort and attention that has been put into the Cocktail Emporium’s History of Rum. The cocktails were interesting, and more importantly, very tasty, and the food, while sometimes a little challenging, was impressive and just ‘molecular’ enough to keep you interested.

It should be obvious that putting a small group of people in a room, and serving them fantastic, themed cocktails will make for a good evening.

Add in some theatre, well judged and immersive special effects and, most importantly, a team passionate about drinks and customer experience, and you have an evening every bartender worth his or her salt will want to experience, and we look forward to seeing what the Cocktail Emporium has in store for us next time.

You can find Cocktail Emporium booking details on the Worship Street Whistling Shop website.

 

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Editor

Andy Ives has over 10 years hospitality publishing to his name and has written for trade magazines such as CLASS and Theme. Most recently he worked as editor of Industry magazine (the Australian version of Theme), bars editor of Australian Bartender magazine, and launched (with Simon) www.4bars.com.au, which is now Australia’s leading bar industry website.

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