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Grab a magic wand for potions class: Wizard-themed bar The Cauldron opens soon in Wicker Park



The Cauldron, a wizarding-themed bar, is set to open in Wicker Park on May 4. Don’t worry, magic wands will be provided.

The distinctive space in the lower level of 1612 W. Division St. used to be a bank vault, a fact they are definitely incorporating into the design, said co-founder Matthew Cortland. (The Bedford operated there for a few years.)

The space won’t simply be decorated with fantasy-themed paraphernalia, Cortland said. Instead, the mission of The Cauldron is “to make magic real with science, technology and design.”

He launched the London-based concept with David Duckworth in 2017, starting with potion-making classes, where guests would make three cocktails using recipes and technology the two developed.

“It’s like a cocktail-making class meets an escape room,” Cortland said. “You come in and get a robe and a magic wand, which you’ll use to make three drinks. Each table has interactive technology on it.”

Cortland explained that along with simply being fun, guests will hopefully learn something along the way. “Maybe there’s a color-changing drink, and you’ll understand that colors move along a pH scale,” Cortland said. “But we try to make it as fun as possible.”

He got the idea of combining fantasy and technology while working as a literacy and reading teacher in Miami. “I taught students who were struggling with reading, and the way I got them interested was through fantasy,” Cortland said. “Those books have so many themes that speak to people.”

He then got into technology education, developing learning games for students, before deciding he wanted to try and combine fantasy with technology.

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“I just started making things that were in my head and what was in my head was, ‘How do I make magic wands real?’” Cortland said. He eventually crafted a wand using sensor-based technology. “Anything that turns on or off, I can make work with a magic wand,” Cortland said. For example, Cortland said that there will be a beer dispensing system where a customer can wave a wand to pour beer.

Part of the space will be dedicated to the potion-making classes, which last about an hour and 45 minutes and need to be booked in advance. But with 10,000 square feet, The Cauldron will also offer a full-service restaurant and a speak-easy-style bar housed in the building’s distinctive vault.

The restaurant will offer a British pub menu with, as you’d probably guess, a fantasy twist. “Most of our dishes are magical in some way,” Cortland said. “They are on fire, they smoke or they are interactive.” For the fish and chips, the kitchen will serve fried fish on hot river rocks set over dry ice, sprayed with sea-salt water. “It comes smoking and smelling like the sea, along with being great fish and chips,” Cortland said.

While you’ll have to be over 21 to enter the potion-making class and bar, the restaurant will be open to families early in the evening. This will be the seventh and largest location for The Cauldron. Currently, it has four locations in the United Kingdom, along with sites in New York City and Philadelphia.

Though undeniably a draw for fantasy fans, Cortland wants everyone to have a good time. “The theme of this is about having as much fun as possible for the customer,” Cortland said.

The Cauldron will open at 1612 W. Division St. on May 4. Tickets for potion-making classes are available at

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