The Lowdown: Augmented reality cocktails

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Augmented reality cocktails
Two years in the making, City Social's new cocktail menu explores art through the ages

A booze-fuelled Pokémon Go?​ Not quite. The team at Jason Atherton’s City Social has launched what’s claimed to be the world’s first augmented reality cocktail menu. Customers download an app - it’s so large the 24th storey restaurant had to install a new and very quick WiFi network - and scan the coaster the drink arrives on to see animations appear around their cocktails.

What sort of stuff do you see?​ The theme is art through the ages. Each of the dozen drinks is matched to a particular art style and period and is accompanied by its own animation. City Social’s timeline includes Van Gogh’s Wheatfields With Crows and - appropriately for a restaurant - Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans. Visuals include everything from sprites of Leonardo da Vinci's angels to tiny animated monkeys rampaging around a virtual sitting room. After a few too many it could all get a bit much... 

Is it any good?​ Some two years in the making, the tech is impressive and the app works perfectly. That said, it doesn’t hold your attention for long, especially as the app has to contend with City Social's fantastic views of London.

Then why go to all that effort and expense? ​Shareability. The app encourages the user to record what they’re seeing and share it on social channels. The project was no doubt hugely costly but many of the drinks brands name checked on the menu have chipped in to the build cost.

And what are the drinks actually like? ​The team at City Social have not neglected the cocktails themselves. They’re grown-up and ambitious with many using ingredients that are more commonly found in kitchens than in bars. The list includes the Open Sesame (Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Mr Black coffee liqueur, sesame, hazelnut, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and soy sauce) and the Sashay (Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, Japanese plum wine, jasmine, liquorice, burlesque bitters). Prices range from £12 to £29 but most cocktails are around the £14 mark.

Is anybody else doing something similar?​ Yes. A number of major drinks brands have seized on augmented reality and virtual reality to add a point of difference to their drinks marketing. Amstel has teamed up with a new virtual treasure hunt app called Snatch. The partnership sees users play an augmented reality Pokémon Go-like game where the aim is to collect and then protect virtual parcels. Those that successfully protect their parcel for six hours will receive a code for a free pint, redeemable at Mitchell & Butler venues. Meanwhile, Nicolas Feuillatte is offering “virtual reality enhanced” Champagne tastings, giving guests a chance to explore a Champagne-inspired world.

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