Oculto Manor transforms Soho Studios into fun-house of secrets

Photo: Tomas Loewy

Although it’s been available for purchase at select locations for some time already, Thursday night marked the exclusive launch party of Oculto, Anheuser-Busch’s latest and greatest creation. Made with blue agave and aged in tequila barrel staves, the golden lager-blend kind of tastes and feels like a cocktail, given its sweet flavor and an alcohol content of 6%.

The first of seven events spread out across this week and next, Oculto’s opening party included all the fanfare of a high end liquor launch. For two weekends, Wynwood’s massive Soho Studios has transformed into Oculto Manor, a dizzying Twilight Zone fun-house of unique experiences and themed rooms that certainly beat any velvet rope nightclub in terms of creativity.

Upon entering the blue-lit lobby, we were invited to enjoy complimentary beer from a tower of Oculto bottles. Bartender Tommy Avital offered us salted lime “to enhance the tequila flavor of the beer” while posing for photos with a white Oculto bone mask.

Once we’d sufficiently armed ourselves with ice cold beer, attendants dressed as butlers invited us to “choose our journey” by selecting one of three doors at the opposite end of the lobby, each topped with a massive LED clock showing a different time.

We assembled in front of the 4 o’clock door, and were promptly ushered into a passageway where another attendant commanded us each to don one of the thirteen white Oculto masks that were waiting for us. And the journey began.

We’d been tipped off by our friends at AMPM Presents that this launch was going to be a wild ride. They weren’t kidding. The first room was really the inside of a stretch limo. Our group of 13 piled onto the leather seats as two women descended from a hatch in the ceiling, one sporting a white bikini and the other wearing a wedding dress with massive taffeta skirts. The actresses squeezed in between the guests, interacting with us as though the crowded limo really was off to a wedding.

After “arriving” at our destination, we were led into a room reminiscent of a Turkish bath. Pieces of foam made to resemble Cheetos and artificial rose petals carpeted the floor and filled the bath pools. Women dressed in togas and white shawls urged guests to jump into the foam pits for a “soul-cleansing session.” Particularly “dirty” souls were rewarded for their participation with shoulder massages and murmured praise.

The Turkish bath led to a plain wooden door marked by a small golden plaque that read ‘House Party.’ We entered what looked (very convincingly) like somebody’s living room.

Guests and actors jumped up and down on a mattress set up in one corner of the room, while others partook of appetizers laid out in the kitchen. Our “host”, an actress dressed as a teen from the 90s, opened up the refrigerator to reveal a hidden passageway leading to yet another room of surprises. As we passed through the open fridge, she thanked us for coming and asked us to pray she didn’t get in trouble with her parents for “trashing the house.”

The fourth and final room was set up like a scene out of American Horror Story’s Freak Show season. Decorated like a circus tent, it featured a stage, a piano, racks of clothing and a dressing room area. Actresses dressed as showgirls applied their makeup in front of large vanity mirrors, encouraging “fans” to write their names in lipstick on the glass. One party goer tried his luck in a tap dancing contest with a woman dressed in sequins and a white feather boa; they both ended up in a balloon and feather fight.

The journey culminated in a massive tent that featured performances by Little Dragon, DJ Uchi and Cedric Gervais as the night wore on. Once one act finished performing, guests were welcome to try a different door and journey. Overall, the Oculto team truly outdid themselves with this one. We can’t wait to head back for round two.

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