The year is 2022–a number that’s probably a bad choice for 4D, and also a time where the word gacha doesn’t come attached with positive connotations.
For those with confused looks, congratulations. You probably have been living a very productive life by not spending time on the Internet, nor engaging in trifling mobile games.
Gacha–originally known as gashapon or gachapon–is the vending machine that dispenses capsule toys. The mechanics of this humble machine was classified as ‘blind box’, and eventually adopted by video games. The gacha mechanic appears in many iterations though primarily for the purpose of in-game monetisation; it’s a lot like Lucifer, Beelzebub, Moloch, Mephistopheles, Lord of the Flies; aka Satan. The difference is that I’m pretty sure Lucifer doesn’t exist.
But you might find the term ‘loot box’ familiar, thanks to the recent crackdown on the practice in Europe. In a video or mobile game, you acquire one either by spending time to earn it or spending money to acquire it instantly. You then ‘open’ the box, kick off the RNG lottery and pray to RNGesus (the god that keeps f***ing with the random number generator) for a favourable dice roll. On what is practically a 1000-sided die. And that’s if they are kind. But I digress.
“Singapore’s first-ever random cocktail generator” is based on the concept of gacha, minus the insidiousness that its gaming counterparts have, thankfully. Unless of course, you are somewhat of a connoisseur who finds the idea of randomly mixing spirits and mixers offensive.
The Random Cocktail Generator is a collaboration between Tezarekt and JU95, a modern Izakaya that can be described as far from mundane, thanks to the NSFW artwork cheekily placed at eye level along with the patently casual vibe of the premises.
In that sense, the cocktail generator booth–effectively an interactive touchscreen–is perfectly at home. There really is nothing to it: you choose the number of ingredients in your drink and the machine will generate a concoction based on those variables. Your options are as follows:
- EZPZ ($19.50) – a randomised cocktail containing one spirit and two mixers
- Normal ($23) – a randomised cocktail containing two spirits and two mixers
- Get Rekt ($26) – a randomised cocktail containing three spirits
Part of the thrill comes from ‘drawing’ the more expensive spirits like Hibiki whisky. The spirits are also ranked by tiers, much like how loot and gear are classified in video games. And in case you’re wondering, the price is more or less fair for what you’re getting at Boat Quay, so you don’t have to worry about being short-changed.
As I understand it, this is Tezarekt’s way of introducing Web3.0 ideas into a typical F&B setting, so there are plans to roll out more perks down the road, such as winning special items or rewards from merchants and partners. The prizes will be packaged with Tezarekt’s house NFT–a collection of 10,000 TEZAREKT Avatars (TEZAREAN)–entitling users with benefits such as loyalty points and crypto cashbacks. Other concepts include “minting your own bespoke drinks as NFTs and providing your digital twin avatar with future benefits in the metaverse to come.”
I get that this is a fancy way of saying that the Random Cocktail Generator is a work-in-progress–there’s a core experience in place, with plans to enrich the experience further with new mechanics and features over time. But I really can’t talk much about it until I see it happen for myself. In that sense, it really does feel like an actual video game these days. So, let’s not worry about the DLCs for the time being and let’s just look at the drinks, shall we?
At the risk of sounding like one of those uptight types, if I do drink a cocktail; it’s for the pleasure. We have a vibrant bar scene here in Singapore, so we have the good fortune of enjoying some of the finest tipples in the world. Craft cocktails are a mixture of hard work and ingenuity, made possible by years of toil and experience stemming from extensive research and experimentations, so the idea of randomly piecing ingredients together might seem like an affront to the craftsmen behind the bar.
Unironically, I did my best SJW impression and, seeing the list of nine spirits on offer I decided to go with an all-spirits affair, which as we all know, can go spectacularly badly wrong. I should suffer so that others don’t have to. I was genuinely intrigued: three spirits makes 84 possible combinations; how would you ensure that these combinations are at the very least, palatable? There’s a random selection of sake, absinthe, T&T vodka, 1146 tequila, OFTD rum (lots of EC Proof stuff it seems) just to name a few, and my brain was short-circuiting trying to figure out how the algorithm can make it work.
RNGesus decided that I should receive a concoction of Widges gin, a sake of unknown origin, and T&T wheat vodka. I won’t lie; I was rubbing my hands with glee hoping for a train wreck. But to my chagrin, it wasn’t that bad. It was inoffensive, though it was not something I would jump at to order again from the machine. Haha, jokes on me–I can’t. It’s all random, remember? (Just ask the bar, though)
I would later learn that the team had not worked out every single combination either, though the selection of ingredients is regarded pretty safe. Mostly. So what happens if you get absolute dogshit then, I ask. Well, it turns out that the bartenders do ‘touch up’ the drinks a little if they find it necessary. In other words, every cocktail does undergo some form of quality control, and not a completely random event; my disappointment, your relief, I guess. But there goes the option of a rip-roaring birthday hazing for a buddy that you can blame entirely on RNGesus.
At this point, you must be thinking dude, stop taking this so seriously and you know what? You’re absolutely right. In overthinking the ins and outs of these [insert your favourite metaverse-themed buzzwords here], I’ve forgotten that this is pretty much like the throwaway mobile games that we play to kill time. It doesn’t have to be serious, and we don’t always have to end with a profound takeaway. The whole experience is effectively the modern, fancier equivalent of the Anything and Whatever soft drinks, and the Random Cocktail Generator is just another instigator for the moments that matter–fun times with friends and colleagues at its centre.
I got myself another cocktail. This time, Plantation Rum with bubble gum and watermelon mixers. A crowd pleaser and too ‘safe’ in my book, but by this time I was content to sit back and grab some small bites. The snacks were decent; chicken katsu, wagyu tatare, baby squid crunchies, salmon gyoza skin, just to name a few. Some of them aren’t on the regular menu, so it’s going to be difficult to recommend, but at least I feel confident about the quality of the fare that they can serve up.
Perhaps it’s the drinks talking but by then I started to appreciate that the folks here don’t take themselves too seriously. This is an izakaya after all; you’re supposed to let your hair down and let loose after a long hard day at work. And I guess this concept does work, so long as you don’t overthink it. If you want to devote your energy to tasting and understanding spirits, there are places like the Swan Song, a whisky bar that’s literally upstairs. But that’s a whole different ball game altogether.
At the end of the day, the Tezarekt Random Cocktail Generator at JU95 may be random, but there’s nothing random about deciding to have fun.