When it comes to Harry Potter, it’s no secret that the WSWD team is on top of its wizarding game. We can tell you where Potterheads will thrive in NYC, what to do before and after a two-part Cursed Child performance—and we even spoke with the show’s award-winning lighting designer (who, to our dismay, didn’t reveal how he created that astonishing ripple effect). So when our extendable ears heard about another bewitching experience coming to the city, I had to give it a try.
As all great adventures usually begin, I got lost on my way to the Cauldron, the immersive cocktail-making class that’s continuing its London success in the Financial District. Why FiDi? A Potter-themed pop-up doesn’t exactly sound like something Wall Street suits would flock to. It must have something to do with the cobbled Stone Street, the Diagon Alley–esque brick buildings, or the hanging lamps along the curved pathway. The address said 47 Stone Street, but, similar to the disguised 12 Grimmauld Place, 47 was nowhere to be found. Blink and you might miss the half-hidden sign on Bavaria Bierhaus’s door, informing us that the limited-run class takes place on the beer hall’s second floor.
The German biergarten gave way to a cozy pub comparable to the Three Broomsticks—long wood tables, Medieval-like chandeliers overhead, windows painted to look like they’re always rimmed with fresh snow. (If you need a refresher, you can always grab one of J.K. Rowling’s novels sitting on the wall shelves.) Upon entering, I was given a wand and swiftly taken to my seat, where a potions master—in my case, it was Mr. Crazy Legs—and a neon green, smoking (literally) shot awaited to greet me. In a cartoonish, old-timey accent, he gave me the rundown: House robes were to be donned at all times, pay special attention to all instructions, and my wand was key to acquiring the booze. I also quickly learned not to get on his bad side. One, because his name hints at insanity. And two, he was the only one with access to the “secret stuff.”
Just as Professor Snape would have it, I was left to my own devices when it was time to start brewing. That meant casting a few spells to turn on the table-side lamp and open a secret compartment filled with crucial ingredients, tasks that only called for a single tap of the wand. My first DIY cocktail required emptying several vials of curious-looking liquids—one of which smelled uncannily like vodka and another of which was purple and had a whiff of lavender about it—inside a giant chalice and then stirring the mixture counterclockwise. The resulting elixir shined bright violet until Mr. Crazy Legs swirled in a final dose of the aforementioned secret stuff, a clear mystery liquid that—poof!—instantly turned the drink a stark blue shade (no, we were never told exactly what we were imbibing, though your potions master will reveal the ingredients if you insist).
In between lessons, I was escorted to the bar to meet with another potions master, who could have been Hagrid’s twin if he were only several feet taller. There, I was given a choice of additional types of draughts: two beers from Sixpoint Brewery, the Crisp pilsner and a pumpkin ale called Hellbroth, as well as a mixed-drink option that my companion for the evening said tasted like tequila. I went with the pilsner, since it didn’t take a seer to predict that I would be ingesting many different types of liquor later that evening.
The second cocktail, called Lost Time, required an O.W.L.-level mastery of potion-making: more steps, more ingredients, more powerful secret stuff. We crushed herbs—cinnamon bark, ginger root, and Assam cha—with a mortar and pestle, then added them to a cauldron of “enchanted solution” along with a bottle of the house’s finest Bladderwort Nectar. Mr. Crazy Legs assisted with the sprinkling of fairy dust, an extremely cold mixture of dark magic (dry ice) that immediately caused the potion to bubble and smoke. After a few droplets of Dragon’s Tears, a liquor that smelled of potpourri, my libation was ready for tasting—and, boy, did it taste good.
The Cauldron couldn’t call itself a magical experience nor would Mr. Crazy Legs earn his name, however, if a little fire weren’t involved. Near the end of our session, I was presented with a sweet pinkish martini that burned like the Goblet of Fire once lit aflame. And as a goodbye present, another bubbling shot, but this time an amber nectar—aka Fireball Whiskey.
For those still checking their mailboxes for a letter from Hogwarts but are old enough to drink, the Cauldron will provide the drunk respite from reality you’ve always dreamed about. My only complaint: I couldn’t keep the wand.
The Cauldron NYC
47 Stone Street (off Coenties Alley on the 2nd floor of Bavaria Bierhaus), Financial District
Through Sunday, March 31
Each session runs 1 hour and 45 minutes
Off-peak tickets: $44.99
Peak tickets: $54.99