The VR Cocktail and Baptiste & Bottle. Image credit: Neil Burger

There’s something a tad oxymoronic about imbibing on some 20-year-old scotch in a virtual reality setting. Sipping on a youthful scotch or rare sherry that has been aged in a rare cask is enough to transport you–and that destination is only left to your imagination. For those with a bit less sense of wonder and some extra dough to spend, there exist new virtual reality experiences that add untold dimensions to any cocktail hour.

If you happen to walk into the Baptiste & Bottle bar at the Conrad Chicago, you will enter the playground of Michael Fawthrop, the beverage director at the upscale hotel. Calling the adult beverage emporium a bar seems a bit of an understatement as Fawthrop is known for adding touches that make the drinking part of the experience secondary. As a follow-up to creating a cocktail with balloons, the innovative master barkeep has gone high-tech by adding virtual reality to the menu. The VR experience was created in conjunction with Macallan, the world-renown distillery in Craigellachie, Scotland.

“At the Conrad Chicago, we always look for ways to be innovative and utilize technology in an interesting way that is also on brand and authentic,” Fawthrop said in a recent interview with Forbes. “Working in a luxury hotel bar you get to meet people traveling from all over the world and have experienced a lot. Our challenge is to give them a memorable experience that they will take back home or to wherever they are traveling to next.”

For $95, here’s what you get: The journey starts with a wooden box placed in front of the patron. Inside the box are items such as moss and vegetation that tell The Macallan story. The moss and vegetation relate to oak trees in a forest; oak is what the venerable distillery uses to make its casks. Empty glasses are placed in front of the customer.

As the story unfolds, sherry is poured with an explanation on how the sherry is distilled from start to finish. Macallan Rare Cask (scotch) comes next with a similar spiel. Once the trial tasting is finished, the VR tour begins with goggles and an Oculus Rift setup. Without ruining the surprise, the experience involves an exploration of oak forests before landing at the Macallan distillery.

As the guests take a VR trip, the cocktail is created tableside and is poured into customized glassware for the occasion. When the patron returns from the VR trip, the drinking begins. The details of what happens next will cost you a trip to Chicago and the Conrad Hotel.

If The Windy City is not your cup of tea (or scotch), you can have similar high-tech drinking encounter at London’s One Aldwych hotel in the city’s theater distinct. A two-minute relatively immerse VR video, made with the assistance of Dalmore whiskey, accompanies the bar’s signature Origin cocktail. The $23 drink and a trip to the Scottish Highland are only one of many tech-inspired additions to the London food and beverage scene.

City Social, helmed by Jason Atherton has designed an augmented reality cocktail menu that is inspired by Pokémon Go. After downloading an app, taking a picture of the drink will lead to an experience designed to complement the alcoholic creation.

When CNN first reported on City Social’s AR effort, Seb Lyall, the brains behind the city’s “Breaking Bad” and all-nude-themed establishments, said this on the changes going on in his industry. “The definition of luxury is changing for younger people,” he remarked. “It’s not about the best cocktail or dish, it’s about the experience.”

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (, the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.

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