In the middle of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, a tin full of dried worms was passed around, and I was strongly encouraged to sample one.
I had drawn the Queen of Hearts card and the worms were my reward. It wasn’t that bad, actually. The Caterpillar’s child tasted a little like bonito flakes, and, rumor has it, insect protein is the next big thing.
That salty worm was a good reprieve from all the drinking that was underway. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is an immersive cocktail and theater event inside of a double-decker bus (turned into a Victorian cottage!) parked in East Williamsburg. The masterminds behind this are Manny Spring and Charles Walker, who wanted to give a “quintessentially British twist” to an immersive cocktail experience. “Everything is for the Instagram,” a spokesperson told me prior to the event, so expect patterns and saturated colors that work quite well on an iPhone camera.
At a preview of the event, the upper level of the bus had been converted into the quintessentially cozy Victorian tearoom, complete with chintz tapestry, shelves brimming with porcelain and china and lampshades. The emcees for the two-hour extravaganza were the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, and the March Hare, who actually stole some lines—and the monocle!— from the White Rabbit.
There was witty banter in the style of an Oscar Wilde play, including plenty of puns and riddles such as– if I understood it correctly– “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Armed with a psychedelic-patterned ukulele and missing one of his two front teeth due to a brawl with a fellow rodent, the Dormouse asked us for a random word so he could sing about it troubadour-style. I gave him stars and he went off about “stars shining bright tonight”; someone else opted for rainbows, which prompted him to riff on “rainbows in the sky rainbow in their eyes.”
These three amiable hosts weren’t just there for the banter; they also had to help the guests craft molecular cocktails on rotating workstations at the Mad Hatter’s table with the aid of dry ice, potion-colored liquids and devices meant to start chemical reactions. You don’t need to be a budding alchemist to participate; everything is already portioned, and all a guest has to do is pour some liquid into a fancy-looking vat. One concoction was made with pineapple, foam, jelly and glitter. The four-plus cocktails are paired with small bites, to keep hunger pangs at bay.
All of the cocktails are gin-based, but that doesn’t mean you can’t swallow the worm.
The Mad Hatter’s G&T Party runs through July 15, but further dates might be added depending on demand. Tickets are $60.