The rise of entertainment-focused bars that feature arcade and video games has made way for a new breed of themed cocktails designed to appeal to gamers of all types. These venues feature drinks with clever names and bright, video game-inspired colors, attracting attention from a wide swath of consumers. Portland, Oregon’s Ground Kontrol, which has been open for ten years, offers a classic arcade atmosphere with more than 100 arcade and video games as well as myriad pinball machines.
“Video games are more popular than ever, and our clientele reflects that,” says Aeden McRea, Ground Kontrol’s operations manager and longtime bartender. “People of all ages and walks of life frequent our bar. We operate as a retro arcade, so people grew up with the games and themes that we use to name our cocktails. Customers are excited to talk about the themed cocktails and our regulars love the drinks and often order them based on their name.”
Ground Kontrol offers a menu with more than ten signature game-inspired drinks, and the staff creates new themed specials daily. Popular cocktails include the Princess Peach ($9), named for the character in the classic Super Mario Bros. games. The drink mixes Stoli Blueberi vodka with DeKuyper Peachtree schnapps and locally made 2 Towns Ciderhouse BrightCider. The Princess Peach is joined by other Super Mario-themed creations like the RumChata-based King Boo ($9) and the George Dickel rye-based Gold Coin ($9). Also on offer at Ground Kontrol is the Falcon Punch ($8), named for the combat flight simulator game Falcon and made with Stoli Ohranj vodka and cranberry and pineapple juices.
Old-school games from the 1980s and ’90s also get a lot of attention at Bit Bar in Salem, Massachusetts. The venue features a wide array of classic arcade and video games, and a full roster of themed cocktails to match. Popular selections include the Pac-Man-inspired Ghost Eater ($10), mixing Pueblo Viejo Blanco Tequila infused in-house with ghost pepper, locally made Short Path Distillery triple sec, and fresh lemon, lime, and pineapple juices, and the Dankey Kang ($10), a blend of locally distilled Privateer Silver Reserve rum, Leroux Crème de Banana liqueur, Arrow Blue Curaçao, cream of coconut, and coconut water.
“Our game-themed cocktails are our most popular drinks,” says Bit Bar co-owner Rob Hall. “Most of our cocktails have video game or related cultural references. It makes our bar unique and fun, and people delight in seeing the menu. The game references vary: Some are direct and some are subtle, while some are from classic arcade games, and others are from modern console and computer games. It’s a great conversation starter between the staff and guests.”
More modern gamers have found a home in Las Vegas’ HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel & Casino. The massive 30,000-square-foot venue houses a few classic arcade-style games and a relaxed video game console bar, but the bulk of its entertainment area is designed for serious computer and console gamers. The space houses a range of seating and docking stations and regularly hosts esports tournaments.
To complement its space, HyperX Esports Arena offers a menu of game-inspired drinks. Popular cocktails include the Overkill ($12), made with Bacardi Pineapple rum, Giffard Passion Fruit liqueur, Real Mango Purée syrup, Red Bull Yellow edition, and fresh lime juice; the Fortnite-inspired Chug Jug ($12), comprising Svedka Blue Raspberry vodka, Bols Blue Curaçao, Real Raspberry Purée syrup, and Red Bull Blue edition; and the Final Boss ($12), mixing Ketel One Botanical Cucumber & Mint vodka, original Red Bull, and Reàl Kiwi Puree Infused syrup.
“Red Bull is very popular with gamers and our energy drink-infused cocktails are a big hit with guests,” says Nico DeGeorge, the assistant general manager of HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas. “All of our game-inspired cocktails have an energy drink component, and the themed drinks overall are extremely popular within the gaming community. Their names entice a lot of guests to try them.”