Immersive Cocktails With Inventive Productions

Toast.Life chats to Inventive Productions' Sam Shearman about creating the world’s first immersive cocktail series

Cocktails are always a hit but when they’re served as part of an exciting and unique immersive experience? Even better. Toast.Life chats to Sam Shearman, founder and director of Inventive Productions, to hear about his latest project, The Moonshine Saloon and how he went about creating the world’s first immersive cocktail series, plus his top tips for immersive styling at home.

Inspired by his love for film, television and immersive entertainment, 27-year-old Sam Shearman launched Inventive Productions in April 2017, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I was working within consumer goods, but I truly believed I had a good idea and thought the time was right to pursue it. With a number of ideas for unique concepts that I would have wanted to go to as a guest, I believed and hoped there were also others out there that would!” he explains.

“I’d been visiting cocktail bars for years and I often found frustration in over-complicated and extensive menus which eat into a limited booking time. I believed that there was a great idea in creating a cocktail bar without menus, allowing guests to bring their own bottle of the spirit they enjoy the most and place the power of creating personalised cocktails in the hands of the experts - our mixologists.”

And by combining this unique and ingenious concept with an element of thoughtfully designed immersive theatre, Inventive Productions was born, and just over a year later the company currently operates two permanent productions in London, and have a whole host of concepts in the pipeline, all top secret of course…

“The company is rooted with a passion to bring to life inventive concepts that challenge traditional environments. We’ve started with a cocktail bar environment, by combining immersive theatre with world-class cocktails at its heart, which brings people together in a completely unique way and leaves a lasting memorable impression with guests” explains Sam.

“We are made up of a small team of immersive storytellers who are all huge film and TV fans, therefore, each experience is rooted in inspiration from popular entertainment.”

Alcotraz Team

Alcotraz Drinks

Alcotraz Experience

Alcotraz Gin

Much like, for example, their first production - the ingeniously named Alcotraz which just so happens to be the world's first ever prison-themed cocktail bar, currently operating out of a permanent site in East London. Guests are invited to smuggle their liquor of choice past the prison warden so that the longest-serving inmates of Alcotraz can mix you and your fellow convicts some delicious cocktail concoctions, whilst you enjoy your temporary incarceration and make some unusual new friends. After opening, Alcotraz quickly rose to the top 10 nightlife venues in London on TripAdvisor, along with 95% 5-star reviews across other platforms.

“It became a real talking point - it was completely new and something that hadn’t been thought of or done before. Whether people liked or disliked the idea we wanted to ensure that people judged us on the actual experience itself. They key word I use in the team and beyond is authenticity, so everything within each experience stays away from tacky and is rooted in feeling hyper-real” explains Sam.

“As I’ve said, I am a huge fan of film and TV and I do love the prison genre, so you’ll find the likes of Shawshank Redemption, Prison Break and Escape from Alcatraz in my collection, and also nods to these greats in the experience.”

Sam also just so happens to be a fan of Westerns too, and recently became ‘obsessed’ with the HBO hit series Westworld, which provided much inspiration for his next and latest booze-fuelled theatrical romp. London’s largest immersive cocktail experience - The Moonshine Saloon - has just opened on London’s swishy king’s Road; it is a multi-room experience that combines immersive theatre with a world-class cocktail drinking experience, instantly transporting all guests to the rugged American West.

“I love seeing an idea come to life - starting normally from a note in my phone right through to a customer walking through the doors” explains Sam. “I find the journey hugely exciting and rewarding. The biggest challenge is reining in ideas!”

Moonshine Saloon Cocktails Card Games

Moonshine Saloon Cocktails

Moonshine Saloon Lady Ayda Clyde Cassidy And Sheriff

And what makes Inventive’s two innovative experiences even more unique is that they are in fact linked; creating the world’s first immersive cocktail series. Following on from the success of Alcotraz, in which inmate Clyde Cassidy provides instructions to convicted guests on how to smuggle liquor past the warden, the new Moonshine Saloon transports visitors into the centre of the crimes that not only led to Clyde’s inevitable incarceration, but also his notorious reputation. It’s a prequel to the prison experience, if you like.

“For me, the moment when you step off the streets of London and into our immersive environment is truly ‘wow’” beams Sam. 

“Any thoughts, expectations or distractions are forgotten at this moment, as you are greeted by the first local of the town of Coldwater”

First stop at The Moonshine Saloon is a visit to the local tailor to ensure that you look the part and don’t attract the wrong type of attention from the local Sheriff. With the right togs and Stetson hat in place, you’re ready to hand your smuggled liquor over to Clyde and enjoy a few drinks, expertly prepared by a world-class team of barkeeps who combine your liquor of choice with bitters, syrups, liqueurs and garnishes to make bespoke, contemporary and classic cocktails.

Moonshine Saloon Cocktails And Card Games

On the menu there’s concoctions such as Cackleberry Grapefruit & Vodka with Moonshine Mint (a contemporary twist on the Daiquiri), Bee-sweetenin’ Gin Sour (classic Gin Sour with honey) or the Bourbon Gold Rush (new creation that pays homage to the Whiskey Sour). Smuggling in your own liquor means exactly that – both of Inventive’s current productions are BYOB, which is an exciting and unique prospect within the London scene. 

“For us, asking guests a to bring their own spirit is one sure way to ensure everyone is able to drink what they actually enjoy as at too many experiences these days you have zero choice in what you are given, but I also believed it was integral that the reason why guests were bringing their own spirit was part of the storyline. Subsequently, convicted guests receive instructions from the notorious liquor smuggler Clyde Cassidy on how to smuggle their liquor in!” Sam explains.

“Food and drink appeal to peoples senses therefore the environment in which you consume them is a hugely powerful tool to heighten these senses. If done in the right way a level of theatre or storytelling can take food and drink beyond its pure form into something extra special.” 

Moonshine Saloon Sheriff

Moonshine Saloon Busy Bar

While in the West, outlaws can try their luck at card or dice games, visit the General Store or perhaps be lucky enough to be invited into the notorious Moonshine Distillery. You never know who might pay a visit to the Saloon, so if the Sheriff’s in town visitors must be sure to keep their involvement in the gang quiet, even when interrogated…

“It’s important that the narrative is exciting for both the guests and the actors, leaving room for the guests to shape their own experience” explains Sam.

“I love creating characters, and it’s these characters who take guests on a journey in their experience, whether it’s the guards of Alcotraz who are on the payroll of Clyde Cassidy, or whether it’s the Sheriff of Coldwater and Clyde himself. Guests interact with these characters and will be able to follow their stories not just in one immersive experience, but across the series.”

There’s no denying that the word ‘immersive’ gets tossed around a lot these days. From supper clubs to theatre shows, pop up bars and more, we’re continually promised a convincing and imaginative night of entertainment, but I think it’s safe to safe that Inventive Productions certainly delivers. Sam and his team are already busy making plans for the launch of the third bar in the trilogy, but understandably the finer details remain very much under wraps for now.

“I believe that people are not only looking for something a little different these days but they’re also looking for an element of escapism, and it is a personal ambition of mine to push the boundaries on other traditional environments along with taking our existing concepts to new places” Sam explains.

“When immersive experiences are done well it is one of the rare occasions these days where you totally lose yourself from the day-to-day and transport to a new world. With more and more distractions in our everyday lives the importance to truly be present, enjoy the company you are with and the environment you are in will become even more important!”

Sam’s Top Tips For Immersive Styling At Home

  • Choose a Theme - Commit to a theme and leave no stone unturned
  • Being Athentic - Authenticity will always rule over tacky
  • Create an Ambience - Use every tool at your disposal – sound, light, aesthetics, costumes
  • Always provide drink!

The Moonshine Saloon is open now on London King’s Road, and Alcotraz can be found on Brick Lane in East London. Tickets cost £33.99, which includes approximately 4 cocktails made with your smuggled liquor of choice plus 1 hour 45 minutes inside the venue. For more information visit Inventive Production's  page in our Little Black Book for links and details. 

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