I’ve been lucky enough to have visited the real-life Alcotraz island and prison just a short boat ride away from San Francisco and so ever since this I’ve wanted to visit the English version which opened it’s doors in Shoreditch back in 2017 as a 3-month pop-up. Due to huge popularity this turned out to be much longer than a 3-month stint and since then, intensive productions have grown and been able to open not just one more version of their fantastic Alcotraz inspired immersive cocktail bars, but two! One in Covent Garden and another in Brighton. I was invited along to the Covent Garden branch (with my alcohol in tow) to discover if we were clever enough to outsmart the warden.
We started off at the special meeting point which you will be told by email and here you will be briefed and told the rules for when you make it inside the prison. After this you’ll be taken to Alcatraz itself and will be asked to smuggle in your alcohol. My friend, Bex, bought us a 70cl bottle of vodka and we still had some left at the end so don’t go too wild but you also don’t want to bring too little. They suggest a standard spirit such as vodka, gin, rum or whiskey so that the cocktails that they make you are still tasty. We decided to smuggle ours in via a pillowcase so that we didn’t get caught!
You’ll be shown to your cell and take your seats before filling in your record card where you can state why you’ve been arrested – I poisoned my non-existent husband. Sorry about that sir. before handing your smuggled in spirit of choice into the bartender who will then hide it behind the bar for you whilst whipping up a selection of amazing cocktails. If you’re in a pair, like we were, you’ll most likely be sharing your cell with other people but this wasn’t too much of an issue as they were nice people and it meant that we could take it in turns to take photos of each other (and they weren’t too bad, it’s always so upsetting when someone offers to take photos of you and then you get your phone back and you’re disappointed).
We were bought our first cocktails and were blown away, ours was what seemed to be a twist on a pornstar martini and it went down like a dream. I’m always a little nervous of events where you can’t pick your cocktails but we both absolutely loved all 4 of the ones that we were served. I think being able to choose your base means that you’re more likely to enjoy the cocktail. Each cocktail was very different but also equally nice with different flavours and fruits involved.
The setting is great. It’s like you’re in a real prison with cell blocks, ours even had a toilet in it! and you get to dress up in your overalls and really get into the whole experience, everyone that was there got really into it which made the whole experience even more enjoyable and the staff really got everyone hyped up… even if it meant I was speaking in a dubious american accent for the rest of the night.
I don’t want to say too much as I really think you should be finding out what happens through your own eyes and enjoy being in the real world and away from your phone (there’s no signal so just for photos which is always nice). But the whole experience is about 1hr 45 mins long and it really immersive, all the staff members and actors stayed in role for the entirety and were really inclusive. I think everyone that was there had a great time and it was a little different than just going to a normal bar. With a storyline running through the performances and even being invited into the Warden’s office for mugshots.
I really don’t think we stopped smiling for the whole time we were there and I’d love to go again with a big group, there were big groups there and they all looked like they were having a great time so it really doesn’t matter how many people you head along with (although maybe going on your own would be a bit lonely). I think it’d be great for a date as there are points that you can chat as well as points where you are asked to do things. Also the setting is great and deciding how to smuggle your drink in is a little bit of an icebreaker.
I’d definitely recommend Alcotraz and thank you so much for having us along, I was sad when it ended but that just means I’ll have to go again!