Pop-up bars and experiential nightlife are having a serious moment in London. In the past year, several elaborately themed bars have opened in the city, offering immersive experiences that go far beyond your standard night out. After trying World War Two spy-themed bar The Bletchley (which you can read my review of here), I was eager to try more of the unique nightlife offerings in London. Enter: Moonshine Saloon and Alcotraz London– two experiential bars from Inventive Productions.
Inventive Productions invited me to these bars for a complimentary visit, but all views are my own – and I plan to visit again when friends visit me in London!
What are Moonshine Saloon and Alcotraz Penitentiary?
Moonshine Saloon, located in Chelsea, and Alcotraz Penitentiary, located in Shoreditch, are two immersive bars that follow the story of Clyde Cassidy, an American moonshiner, from his time as a gun-slinging moonshiner to his days as a prisoner at infamous “Alcotraz.” The price for each experience is 33.99 GBP, and this includes the approximately 2-hour experience and a costume for the duration.
Moonshine Saloon and Alcotraz London both operate as BYOB experiences – meaning you’ll need to bring your own liquor. This honestly threw me off at first, but it adds to the smuggler experience, and in the end, I still think both experiences are well worth the money even though you’re providing your own booze. You’ll need to bring a certain amount of alcohol depending on the size of your group, and make sure it is unopened! When you arrive, you’ll “smuggle” in your alcohol and the bartender will take over- the bar has all the mixers that the bartenders need to create yummy drinks.
Moonshine Saloon Review
After you get checked in at Moonshine Saloon by one of the old west actors, you’ll enter the bar through old-timey doors and meet Clyde Cassidy, the moonshiner in charge of the operation. While he explains the evening’s activities, the town tailor will dress you up in cowboy attire- a cowboy hat, a neckerchief, and a cowboy shirt. After that, you’ll head down to the town saloon, run by Ada, Clyde Cassidy’s wife. I don’t want to spoil the story for the evening, but you’ll meet several characters over the course of the night and enjoy an interactive old west experience.
The actors and the atmosphere make this experience remarkable. I was so genuinely impressed with the actors, who stayed perfectly in character (with great American accents) the whole night. The amount of interaction was just right- the actors kept you fully immersed in the experience, but they also gave people plenty of time to talk amongst themselves. The bartender was great, and the drinks were really, really good. Even though he used our base spirit for every drink (we brought vodka, as did most of the people there that night), each of the four cocktails was totally different.
At the end of the approximately 2-hour experience, you’re taken upstairs to the “general store,” where you can hang out and order more drinks until you want to leave.
Alcotraz London Review
Although Alcotraz Penitentiary continues the storyline of Clyde Cassidy, the experience here is very different than the Moonshine Saloon experience. You enter Alcotraz London through dark, fenced doors and put on your prison jumpsuit before giving the prison guards your liquor, which they’ll put in a pillow or box so you can “smuggle” it in. The guards will direct you to your cell, and you’ll meet the strict prison warden. The bartender will retrieve your alcohol and make your cocktails throughout the experience, and they’re very receptive to any input for the drinks- just let them know if you want something sweeter or stronger.
The entire building looks like an old-fashioned prison, with toilets in the cells (not to be used, of course) and drinks served in metal cans. The entire place reminded me of prisons I had seen in movies or on TV. The actors at this experience were also super dedicated to their characters, and they didn’t crack at all the entire time.
Final Thoughts on Moonshine Saloon and Alcotraz London
I really enjoyed my visits to Moonshine Saloon and Alcotraz London. If I had to choose a favorite, I would choose Moonshine Saloon because I love the old west storyline and fun interaction with the actors. I can’t overstate how impressed I was with the actors and the atmosphere at both of these bars. Both have been expertly curated to create a very immersive and fun experience. These bars are like Disneyland for adults.