Man About Town: 'Bringing chemistry to drinking is becoming increasingly popular'

The idea is to lick the battery, then pour the powder into the glass and sink the drink

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test cocktail came with a battery and a little baggie of white powder, attached to the glass

The idea is to lick the battery, then pour the powder into the glass and sink the drink, but one particularly eager chap on my table decided to snort it. Given that it was citric acid, the effect, I was told, was uncomfortably eye-watering with no hit afterwards.

We were at the launch party for the Bump Caves, a subterranean drinking spot near Tower Bridge, which claims to draw its influence from Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

"Bump", of course, also has a drug connotation: a hit of something, hence the EKAAT drink.

Continuing the theme, in the corner sits a rotary evaporator and extraordinary machine that looks more like it should be in a pharmaceutical laboratory than a bar. Through a process of science that my GCSEs failed to cover, in-house distiller and rectifier, Max Chater uses the shiny bit of kit is able to reduce the boiling point of a flavoured alcohol.

This means you can put pretty much anything edible or potable into a beaker with alcohol, boil it up and be left with a strong, and strongly flavoured spirit. Knock back one of these with a specially paired beer (mine was an asparagus and coriander syrup with a charmingly pugnacious Brewdog 5am Saint) and your evening will bump along quite nicely.

The idea of bringing chemistry to drinking is becoming increasingly popular. Last month the Glasgow science festival hosted Tasty Science, which was to show how chemistry affects the effects of cocktails, while Manchester bars the Apothecary and the Alchemist do medicinal and scientific respectively.

But the Bump Caves seems to want to take things “further”, as it were, and to create a place which challenges with some philosophical grapples while they sit and sip. Owner Charlie McVeigh told me he wanted the place to make people wonder why some drugs are illegal and others, like alcohol, which come with manifest dangers, are not. If he succeeds in taking the hoards to the bar and making them think, it will be a rare venue indeed.

Who nose, sorry, “knows”? It may inspire other venues to pop up and encourage similar mind-expanding debates. And if you do go down to the caves today: don’t snort the citric acid.

Luke Blackall is a video journalist for London Live

twitter.com/@lukeblackall

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