In a land not so far away lies Alcotraz, an offenders institution plagued with debauchery, whispered secrets and smuggled contraband. Shrouded in mysterious allure, Alcotraz is London’s first immersive theatrical cocktail bar which has been inspired by Hollywood Movies and TV such as Andrew Jones ‘Alcatraz’ (2018 US), that have brought to life America’s most infamous prison. From being bedecked in garish neon orange jumpsuits that will have you thinking you walked into the set of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ to the real metallic cells, Alcotraz’s authenticity as a high security prison is alarmingly real. And thus the story begins with two friends caught on the cusp of crime, shoveling delicious chickpea and potato curries down their ravenous throat, as they hurry to make their 8.15 deadline at Alcotraz Penitentiary, for fear of facing the warden’s venomous wrath. Procuring small bottles of rum at the nearest convenience store, they step into Alcotraz’s gravitational pull, into a world swept up in exciting mischief, games and foolery. Despite their smirks at the warden and guards ability to keep a straight face at their witty retorts, the inmates are quickly whipped into shape, as the Warden’s booming authoritative voice echoes around our cells, his harsh words crawling into our minds with reckless abandon , there is no empathy here. Inmates are told that they are ‘stupid’, that they ‘must have been dropped on their heads as a kid’, which is peppered with wittier retorts like ‘your earrings look like nipple tassels’ to soften the blow. In this epic yet intimate environment, Alcotraz becomes the backdrop to enjoy an immersive theatrical production that will have even you, the cynic’s mind blown, forgetting even for a moment that they are actors, as they yell, preach and scream.
When convicted to Alcotraz, inmates are lured into an exciting web of theatrical immersion, created by ‘Inventive Productions’ whose immersive cocktail series follows the legend of Clyde Cassidy, a moonshine distiller, notorious liquor smuggler and lifelong inmate of Alcotraz. Encouraged by Clyde to forgo prison rules and smuggle liquor, you must use your wits and survival instincts to sneak in your beloved contraband, handled ‘holy bibles’ and pillows as a disguise for your precious liqueur. While the warden himself might see liqueur as the ‘devils nectar’ lamenting passages from the bible every chance that he gets, luckily the guards are on your side, clearly tired of the tyrannical rule of the warden whose sole passion is making inmates squirm. But despite his booming voice and sarcastic remarks, you manage to pass over your bottles of spirits over to the secret prison bar, who uses them to make four delicious bespoke cocktails that help you through your prison sentence with greater ease. Here at Alcotraz there is no set menu of drinks-although you can change the level of sweetness at the bar- as it is a prison after all. However the inmates are rewarded with a range of tailored cocktails every night based on the liquor that they bring and their personal tastes. While the first drink was too sweet for my liking, in the words of Goldilocks the rest were ‘just right’ infused with raspberry syrups layered upon fresh mint and stacked ice cubes gulped down thirsty throats.
You come across a letter from the infamous Clyde himself and you read it internally pouring over his words:
I hope this letter finds you well.Prison life has its ups and downs but I have found a way to make it more bearable!
Find a way to get a bottle of your favourite spirit into the joint and get it to me. Do not fear, having been America’s most wanted liquor smuggler you learn to keep your enemies close. I’ve got the Guards on my side……it’s The Warden you need to look out for!The Guards have let me smuggle in homemade syrups, juices and bitters from the outside, so if you can get your liquor inside, my gang will be sure to fix y’all something that really tickles your fancy!
You never know, y’all may not want to leave!
Clyde Cassidy, Inmate #1408
You smile, could it be that he was right, that we as immates would succumb to the lure of living life on the dark side, surrounded by notorious inmates that were also serving time. They start spot checking certain cells, you are safe for now, they have them against the wall and yell layered obscenities in their eyes, the Warden wants to teach them a lesson, wants to impose his dominance. The inmates laughter dies down immediately, swept up in the realism of the prison bar experience, you almost forget too, their acting is that good. You sip cocktails absentmindedly, relishing the feel of the rum tickling your rasping tongue, soon you are sated by the liquid that warms your belly into submission, the chill has gone. They call out inmates numbers, you laugh until your number is called, where would they take you? The guard leads you into the basement before sharing his secret with you chosen few. He tells you how you are meant to scream and shout as though you are in pain, as the naughtiest and most notorious inmates the warden has asked that you be punished accordingly so, but the Guard has other ideas. In the words of the great Clyde Cassidy, the guards are on your side. It soon becomes obvious.
A card game is played akin to 21, a birthday girl downstairs, she doesn’t know what to expect. The game is over and the winner is drawn, he asks us to scream as though we are receiving our punishment and we yell like banshees laughter threatening to bubble out of our suppressed lips. But it is all worth it for look what he smuggled, a capsule of sweet liqueur that you down like shots, you feel the buzz. He leads you upstairs tells you to look upset, we put on our best solemn faces and rejoin our cell. He makes sure that you don’t share your secret, that they don’t know the screams were mechanically engineered without reality infused. But somehow the warden, despite the guards assurances, catches whiff of the deviance and the guard is dismissed without warning, as he screams once more. A final cocktail is smuggled under the nose of the warden once more, as you scramble to finish before he turns around and catches you.
Later, sipping on ice cubes, you are passed a sheet of paper to chronicle all your heinous crimes. They ask you to mark your fingerprint as proof of identity, before handing you a pen to draw your ‘mugshot’. You almost laugh as you attempt to draw out your face which looks like it has been squashed by a bus.Despite your terrible drawing skills, you continue to fill out the rest of the form with the same witticism. You place ‘unstable, you think that you are someone else’ in the physical and mental condition box, while your education is a Degree (BA) in being sickening. But as for your offence and the crimes that were involved, the humor becomes darker. You declare openly that you stole a dead body and then took it to a swingers party, that the crimes involved were sexual deviance, death and theft. When the guard asks how the crime is an act of sexual deviance, asking whether you are ‘having sex with the bodies’ you claim that the person opposite you who stated that necrophilia was their crime, was your client, making you the ‘dead body dealer’ who sourced fresh bodies and trussed them up at swingers parties accordingly. He seems unphased as though these are run of the mill crimes and you continue to make your way through the sheet. Your alias is ‘Frida Kahlo’, you were committed on the 13th February 2019 and true to yourself, your last meal request is a chickpea curry, craving the taste once last time.
But lo and behold despite the crimes you had committed, an hour and 45 minutes later you were unshackled from your prison cells and set free into the wild, taking one last mugshot before you escaped into the night. Could it be that Alcotraz was just a dream? You left behind inmate 1425 in search of a prison free future, pushing away the image of the orange jumpsuit, it would become someone else’s fantasy, tomorrow. And when you plunged headfirst into bed fleeting images of iced cocktails dancing on metallic bars came to mind, as you tossed and turned into the night, the fetid breath of the warden on the nape of your neck.
Have You Ever Been To A Prison Themed Bar Before?
Please note we were invited as guests of Alcotraz for complimentary review but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services. Please remember to take an unopened bottle of spirit with you to the bar as no open bottles are permitted inside.
Booking fee: £34.99
(Includes your prison pack for the duration of the sentence, approx. 4 cocktails from your smuggled liquor of choice + 1 hour 45 minutes inside the prison).