Nestled on a curb in East Williamsburg stands an ex-London double decker that resembles more of an English cottage than it does a vehicle. This is none other than ‘the Mad Hatter’s Bus’, the stomping grounds for the two-hour boozy affair of The Mad Hatter’s G&T Party.
“Who’s ready for a tea party,” booms Daniel Robert Burns, Tony LaLonde, and Ryan Salvato, actors who don the roles of the Dormouse, the March Hare, and the Hatter respectively. The trio kick off the night as they mingle with guests while referencing lines from Lewis Carroll’s classic novel.
Prior to entering the double decker, attendees begin their evening with a cup of twisted tea garnished with a cucumber slice. One-by-one, guests are ushered into the bus and after climbing a brief staircase, are met with a long wooden table illuminated by lavender pixie lights hanging above. Staying true to Carroll’s story, time is not wasted at the tea party and instead, is permanently etched at 6pm indicated by a clock hanging overhead. The only solution to influence time, guests soon learn, is to drink.
This leads into the partitioning of groups that reveal three drink stations situated throughout the bus. The Hatter, the Dormouse, and the March Hare each lead their stations, creating cocktails that contain between 40 to 50 ml of gin and other liqueurs per serving. In total, four drinks are served up across the two hours.
“The basis for the drinks is a celebration of traditional [and] heritage British drinking style, fruits, vinegar ferments, berries, [and] botanicals,” said Charles Walker, director of the pop-up. “We then use molecular drink techniques to combine the psychedelia of the story of The Mad Hatter’s Tea party with distinctive recipes and service style.”
In one word, the Dormouse’s drink is tart. Lemonade and Tanqueray are shaken and then adorned with a mint foam. This drink is sharp and emphasizes the lemon profile of gin, but is balanced with a blueberry-custard tart.
Because of its pomegranate and strawberry syrup base, the Hare’s cocktail can become saccharine if guests are generous with the syrup. Infused with botanical tea and Tanqueray and finished off with a citron-like foam, this drink highlights the juniper berries and cubeb notes within gin. Complimentary cucumber sandwiches garnished with caviar help balance the sweetness of this fruity mix.
The Hatter’s drink is picturesque thanks to its purple hues from the butterfly pea extract syrup. Botanical tea, homemade cucumber water, and Tanqueray are added to the concoction and subsequently, enhancing the the Angelica root and coriander profiles of the gin. Scones accompany the drink with miniature fig jams.
Judging by its attendance rate, the pop-up bar is doing quite well — I swung by the bus on a Tuesday at 8 pm, to join a full audience. Accolades are in order for the orchestration of the pop-up, especially given that there’s not much source material since the book’s tea party scene is fairly brief. If you haven’t guessed by now, the pop-up is sponsored by Tanqueray, though vodka options are available upon request.
“It’s inclusive fun and geared toward making people feel celebrated,” Salvato said. “I love that it’s a runaway train, [and] I love that everything is very impromptu.”
If interested in attending, you can purchase tickets here, which will run you from $30 upwards to $60 depending on night and time of attendance.
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