Remember ABQ London? The Breaking Bad inspired bar that was around for a few months in 2015, operating from a RV in Hackney? If your mind needs refreshing you can check out my original post on ABQ here.
Since the original ABQ shut its doors in October, ABQ have revamped their RV and reinvented the ABQ experience. They have a new home in Shoreditch, and it looks like they’re working on making it a permanent thing.
On Wednesday night I was lucky enough to have the chance to experience the new ABQ before they opened the doors to the public.
So what’s new?
The RV is a bit plusher, a bit better laid out, and it looks as though it has a slightly larger capacity than before. I couldn’t really get any detailed pics, but they had some cool details, like a timeline of the shows events across the seat pads on the bench. (Edited to add: I’m informed it’s actually a timeline of Walter White’s shirts, interesting…)
Most significantly, this time ABQ is BYOB.
Instead of making one of two set molecular cocktails (and trying a second), this time guests bring their own booze and get to make their choice of 2-3 cocktails from a much bigger list. You can preview the cocktail options on the ABQ site, along with the recommended spirit for each one so you can plan what to bring. They recommend 35cl of alcohol brought per person, and it has to be in a sealed bottle.
One of the cocktails on offer is quite exciting – ABQ are introducing Londons first flavour changing cocktail. More about that in a minute.
There are five cocktail recipes, and you’re expected to be able to make 2-3 of these during your two hour session. You get partnered up, and between you you make the drinks from scratch – unlike last time when, in groups of four, you operate a production line like system with each person having a particular step.
My partner, Georgia, and I had vodka, so we were limited to vodka based drinks (I did wish I’d brought whisky!). We started with ‘Fly’.
To make Fly, we used a cream whipper to mix up the vodka, flat Citric H2O (yes I know H2O is water, just play along), lime, ‘caviar’ made from cola and some ‘mystery ingredients’.
It resulted in a drink which reminded me of frog spawn.
Our second drink was ‘Tripping’. I’m pretty sure everyone who visits ABQ will go for Tripping, it is their most talked about drink, and I definitely recommend it!
To make Tripping, we shook up vodka, flat Citric H2O and ice, and topped it with Carbonated H2O. But the main part of this drink was the pink tablet that you let dissolve on your tongue, which is what changed the flavour.
After the tablet dissolved, I bit into a lemon slice, and I swear this was the tastiest fruit I’ve ever eaten! The colour changing tablet made the lime sweet, and when I tried the (previously bitter) drink I’d just made, it also was sweet. A super fun idea!
We didn’t have time to make one of the smoking cocktails, but look how cool these ones (called 505) looked (cooked up by Luisa of Eat Sleep Luisa Repeat)…
So, what did I think?
I really enjoyed ABQ both times I visited, but I think more so this time around. Working in pairs makes the whole experience a bit more fun, and it’d make a great date, while the intimate seating arrangements mean it still works for a larger group.
I’m not keen on the BYOB aspect, but I suspect it may have something to do with licensing. It does make the ticket cost cheaper (£25 for two hours rather than the original £31.60), although overall this doesn’t make the experience more economical. Unless you want mocktails, each guest has to bring their own bottle of their choice spirit. And if you’re anything like me you’ll be drawn to two drinks suited to two different spirits. Meaning you’ll want to bring two bottles of booze. And that all adds up.
After your time is up you can buy additional cocktails made up by the bartender at £8 each. But again, they need to use the alcohol you provided, so I think the price is too high. Last time additional cocktails at ABQ were £8.50, which included the alcohol.
Overall I like the concept and it’s a really fun experience but I think it needs a small price drop (although as a one off novelty experience it isn’t bad), and some fine tuning. My partner and I could easily have made three drinks in our time slot, but the time it took for the staff to bring the supplies to us meant we only had time for two – there was a lot of waiting around. It is worth noting though that I was there on the very first night with no previous trials, so I imagine it’ll run a lot smoother going forward.
If you want to visit ABQ, it opens on February 4th. You can book here (scroll down!) for £25 per person, and they’re currently taking bookings until the end of April.
If you’re interested in a more detailed description of how ABQ has developed, check out this mega informative post by Luisa, as she’s been three times now!
All photos my own unless stated otherwise.