Getting my sea legs on the 'Voyage into the Unusual'

2013-10-04T14:00:00Z 2013-10-04T14:53:18Z Getting my sea legs on the 'Voyage into the Unusual'Tara McElmurry Associate Content Producer nwitimes.com
October 04, 2013 2:00 pm  • 

An apothecary, a wall that comes alive, an acrobat in a hot air balloon, a monster in a box, a dark room of curiosity and more seemingly out-of-place elements came together to be Hendrick’s Gin “Voyages into the Unusual.” The event was just that—unusual, though nonetheless interesting and inviting.

I embarked on the voyage at the salvage shop and event space on the west side of Chicago, Salvage One. Walking around the space before the event was crowded with guests, it was easily seen that Hendrick’s and Salvage One were a perfect match. The combination of Salvage One’s recycled items complemented the décor and other odd elements Hendrick’s brought.

My first impression when I walked into the “Unusual” as the band was warming up and the props were still being arranged was that I had just walked into a scene from “Midnight in Paris” or “The Great Gatsby.” The band, White Ghost Shivers, had a roaring twenties sound (at first) and at first glance, that’s what theme the décor seemed to be as well. But, after getting my bearings and speaking with the Hendrick’s brand ambassador I found that I wasn’t quite in Paris or at Gatsby’s.

“The atmosphere is a mix of different time periods and the weirdest elements of those time periods,” said Kris VanDopek, the Hendrick’s brand ambassador at the event. “We have some Victorian elements and some steam punk, but we don’t want to take too much from one area. We don’t want to be able to be categorized into a certain niche.”

The event represented what VanDopek and the rest of the Hendrick’s brand team imagined life would be like inside a bottle of Hendrick’s Gin.

VanDopek said the ideal person he imagines drinking Hendrick’s would be Salvador Dali.

“[The event and the gin] are very surreal — hard to describe,” VanDopek said.

Walking around it was clear that narrowing down some choice words to describe the scene would be a tough task, as VanDopek said.

The White Ghost Shivers cranked up the sound of their eclectic style of American music playing mix of songs with stylings of cabaret, swing and jazz.

The mixologists stood at their posts around the room crafting drinks that represented the different ideas of the “Unusual.”

The characters — actors specially chosen by Hendrick’s to act out “Unusual” roles —were stationed around as the caretaker of a monster, a gigantic live rose, a man with a bird head, bellmen, musicians and just all-around-oddly dressed folk.

The first drink I had was the Unusual Traveling Punch. This drink was the only drink that changes based on the local ingredient of each city. The ingredient that was local to Chicago was an Early Grey Tea from Rare Tea Cellars. It was very refreshing with a sweet flavor from the lemon juice and Mathilde Crème do Peche, and a slight citrusy, fresh taste came from the orange wheel and basil leaf garnish.

Traveling around the space with my punch I saw the acrobat climbing and flipping around a hot air balloon basket, as guests took advantage of the photo opp. I walked through the apothecary area and observed an array of odds and ends including cucumbers, insect specimens, bottles of concoctions and bouquets of roses.

Hendrick’s Gin is known as the “non-gin drinker’s gin,” as it does not have the pine needle or Christmas tree taste some people describe other gins to have. Hendrick’s is made with rose, cucumber and other botanicals to give in a softer taste and allow it to elegantly mix with the other ingredients of Hendrick’s-imagined drinks.

In the apothecary area, I also found another drink called Cucumber’s Blood that had a heavier consistency but a light cucumber taste.

At the main bar, I was able enjoy another drink offering called Night of the Iguana. Still fresh tasting with a cucumber flavor, this drink stood out from the others with savory taste from its celery juice, ground pepper and sea salt.

Other drinks at the event included the Family Tree, which offered a sweeter taste combining Hendrick’s with fresh watermelon and lemon juices, and the classic gin drink— a Hendrick’s and Tonic, which allowed guests to get a true sense of Hendrick’s taste.

On the other side of the room, the monster’s caretaker had to advise guests on how best to persuade the monster to give them a drink. His expert technique taught each guest to gently caress the box and then bang on the box with a heavy chain. When the monster was sufficiently called to duty, a werewolf-like hand would appear through a small opening offering a Traveler’s Testament cocktail, which was a sweet, bubbly and slightly tropical drink with its coconut flake garnish.

A line stretch down the block in front of Salvage One and the “Voyage” got more and more crowded as the night went on. Guests made their rounds trying drinks, dancing to the band or visiting the Wall of Pockets waiting to see which drink or prize a mystery hand would offer out of the wall.

Hendrick’s worked with the production team Momentum Worldwide to bring their imaginative plans to life. VanDopek said it took six months to dream up the details and put “Voyages into the Unusual” into action.

This year is the second time Hendrick’s put on this event. The event voyages across the country to some of Hendrick’s biggest markets including Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.

The brand plans to continue these events every year, but VanDopek said next year’s event may be totally different than this year’s, as they always strive to do things out of the ordinary.

I left feeling a little enchanted, as I feel that not many can say they have attended such an event. As one of the pamphlets from the Wall of Pocket reads, Hendrick’s has done their best “to create our own unusual world for our friends and fellow aficionados of the atypical and scintillating.” Atypical and scintillating indeed.

For more information on Hendrick’s Gin visit hendricksgin.com. To find out more about Salvage One visit salvageone.com.

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