“Magic is just science we don’t yet understand.”
A new concept is coming to Philadelphia this spring, and it uses the above statement—aka the third “law” from futurist Arthur C. Clarke—as a blueprint. But with The Cauldron Philadelphia, a magical pub, fantasy is instead examined and brought to life—and that’s all thanks to co-founders Matthew Cortland and David Duckworth.
“Our science [today] mimics what science fiction was because people saw things that they wanted to make real,” explains Cortland. “I want to do the same thing with fantasy.”
Cortland, a South Jersey native and former literacy teacher came up with the idea for The Cauldron years ago. After setting up a Kickstarter, the idea garnered international attention and for the Rutgers Alumnus, that was the validation needed to motivate him to pick up and move to London. He then met Duckworth and the two merged their backgrounds together: Cortland’s being in the tech industry and education, and Duckworth’s being in mixology, interactive cocktail making experiences and hospitality.
“It was kind of like two creative minds meeting to create this thing,” Cortland continues.
The combination of skills and interest resulted in the concept of an interactive space that offers food, drinks, a potion-making experience, and technology embedded into virtually everything.
The wizard-themed pub’s first venue opened in London in 2017, the successful concept has also expanded to Edinburgh, Dublin, New York City, and an online eCommerce shop that sells magic wand-interactive educational products.
Oh, and you’ll get to use said wands at all of The Cauldron’s locations. With 9 different handles, 9 different shafts and three different color schemes, Philadelphians can personalize their wand, which is used during the potion-making experience. Although you can head to the venue without participating in a class, The Cauldron has certainly cemented the unique concept and made it a one-of-a-kind draw.
The class (prices range from $40-45 depending on day and time) is a 1 hour and 45-minute experience that draws inspiration from fantasy novels and magical lore. As the official description states: Upon arrival, guests receive a wizard robe, and a magic wand imbibed with patented IoT technology to brew drinkable elixirs that have fantastical properties. The class involves Spellcasting 101— to pour a welcome drink of cocktail or mocktail from the mouth of a glittering unicorn. Students are then seated at their interactive workstation, equipped with a cast-iron cauldron and potions instructions, as well as fresh ingredients to brew two illuminating, bubbling, and smoking drinks to enjoy.
“Our mission is to make magic real with science and technology and design,” Cortland says. “We’ve had several thousand people come through the door to do this in other cities in the world, so we’re excited to bring it to Philly.”
There will also be times for family-friendly potion sessions, and vice versa, times where kids are not allowed. Specific slots can be found online once the venue opens. The collaborative potions experience is gluten-free, vegan and can be done with or without alcohol. The class will also be suited with a Potions Master for any additional help that you might need.
The Cauldron Philadelphia will still be a destination even if you’re looking to opt-out of whipping up potions, however.
The classes will have specific tables marked off for those timed sessions, (and there may even be a room reserved for private party sessions in the two-story venue.) However, the front of the bar will be open for anyone to walk in, whether you’re just looking to grab some drinks or to just sit down and enjoy a dinner. Will there be magic involved? That you can count on.
The walk-in, alchemy-style cocktail bar will serve a range of signature molecular cocktails that showcase the science and magic of our world, according to its co-founder. The cocktails come from Cortland’s partner Duckworth.
“Our potion menu is the product of a team of expert mixologists and fantasy geeks coming together to create a cocktail program that speaks to lovers of fantasy, science, and craft cocktails. We are incredibly excited to open our doors and launch a product that Philadelphia hasn’t yet seen,” Duckworth said in a statement.
A few cocktail standouts include: The Wizard of Menlo Park, a Thomas Edison-inspired ginger cocktail that shoots plumes of smoke into the air; The Ode to Mullica, a bourbon and maple cocktail served in a smoking bell jar; and The Blob, an aloe and tequila cocktail with an expanding electric blue head. The Cauldron will utilize fire, ice, smoke, spherification, expansion, color change, clarification and even love as effects to what they serve up.
The food also takes on some of the magical qualities of the venue.
The Cauldron Philadelphia will bring British comfort food with a fantasy twist to Philly locals. As a release states, some highlights include the establishment’s fish and chips which will bubble and smoke with sea salt vapor, and the Cauliflower Cheese which is lit on fire and extinguished with liquid ribbons of English white cheddar. The Elven Bread, on the other hand, is a warm, freshly baked string-tied loaf of sweet bread wrapped in banana leaves, presented on a wooden log with a side of homemade lavender-honey yogurt dip. Amongst desserts are Treacle Pudding, Turkish Delight, or the Eton Mess—a hodgepodge of cream, strawberries, and meringue that the guest breaks to “make a mess.”
When the concept does open (they are looking for sometime in May with the 10th as a tentative date,) The Cauldron Philadelphia will be selling a limited number of “Everlasting Wands” for customers to have their honorary wizard names displayed on plaques in the space forever. Those wands can be purchased online in advance of the grand opening.
Plans for opening will also eventually include boozy brunches, drag events and private event offerings.
“I really wanted to bring The Cauldron to Philly as our first location outside of NYC because it’s a city I know well and love,” finishes Cortland. “The design of this place is taken from all of the best parts of our venues [from] all over the world. So, we’re at the point where we are really beginning to standardize our venues and our offerings and what we do. I think this is going to be an excellent example of the best that The Cauldron has to offer as a model for the future. We’re using this location’s setup as the footprint as we go to other cities.”
For more information on The Cauldron Philadelphia (1305 Locust St.,) visit thecauldron.io/philly