London’s Themed Bars Prove Nightlife Can Be Playful

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ABQ London, a Breaking Bad themed bar

Among all the old-school pubs and flashy nightclubs, a new experience has taken over London’s nightlife scene. Immersive cocktail experiences are all the rage in the UK capital, with several ornately themed bars opening in the past year. Although each bar is unique, they all have a few things in common. Every immersive cocktail bar has incredible theming with great attention to detail, and sometimes, you’ll even get a costume to borrow for the experience so you can fully immerse yourself in the bar’s story. I’ve been to 4 immersive bars since I moved to London a month ago, and each offered an experience unlike any I’ve had before.

One of the most popular immersive cocktail experiences in London is at ABQ, known as the “Breaking Bad” bar because it is inspired by the hit TV show about a high school chemistry teacher with cancer who turns into a meth drug lord. Fans of the show will immediately recognize the iconic Breaking Bad RV when they enter the bar (that’s right- there’s a whole RV inside the bar!).

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Alcotraz Penitentiary

At ABQ, you get to create molecular cocktails using chemistry equipment while sitting in the RV in a yellow hazmat suit. Depending on which of the Breaking Bad-themed cocktails you choose, you’ll get to create molecular infusions using ingredients like dry ice. They even play music from the show during the experience, making the whole thing very immersive and interactive. If you haven’t seen the show, don’t worry- getting to use chemistry to make your own molecular cocktails is well worth the trip.

Visit The Bletchley, and you’ll find another hands-on immersive cocktail experience where you solve World War II spy missions and get bespoke cocktails in return. To get to The Bletchley, you’ll go through the back of a restaurant and down some stairs before you enter a 1940’s spy bunker. Once you’re inside, you’ll get a uniform jacket and choose a mission (and your secret spy name). While you use enigma machines and World War II clues to solve your missions, the bartender will whip up some surprise cocktails.

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Moonshine Saloon

For an immersive cocktail experience with a little bit of theater and excitement, check out Moonshine Saloon or Alcotraz Penitentiary. Both experiences are run by Inventive Productions, a company that specializes in interesting, immersive bars, and they follow the story of “Clyde Cassidy” from his days as a moonshiner to his time in prison. At Moonshine Saloon, you’ll don your cowboy hat and kerchief and head down to the local watering hole, where you’ll watch as the sheriff and Clyde have a showdown worthy of a classic western movie. Head across town to Alcotraz, and you’ll spend time behind bars while a bartender mixes up some unique cocktails. At Moonshine Saloon and Alcotraz, the staff stay in character the whole time, adding even more authenticity to the experience.

The incredible theming and interactive experiences make immersive cocktail bars feel like a grown-up version of Disneyland, and I’m here for it. With so many interesting bars to choose from, there’s an immersive cocktail experience for everyone in London. These new experiences have taken the pop-up bar to the next level, and I can’t wait to see what opens next.

Article and photos by Elizabeth Rhodes. Find Elizabeth on TwitterInstagram, and her website. For more unusual destinations, check out our article on dark tourism.