I’m going to be honest, I debated whether or not I should write this article after discovering the hidden delight that is Doctor Inks Curiosities; a newly opened Victorian style cocktail bar. I want it to stay the buried treasure of Exeter, only heard about through word of mouth and secretly whispered about. However, I just couldn’t resist gushing about this great little find.
the décor made me feel like i should be wearing a corset, bustle and bonnet
Let’s start with the location. After the quay became one of my favourite spots in Exeter last year, I can see why Doctor Ink decided to set up his curiosities by the waterfront. Especially in a section of the Grade II listed Old Customs House. The décor made me feel like I should be wearing a corset, bustle and bonnet – but I still felt at ease. Dark woods and thick curtains made it way too easy to spend a whole evening there. Good for the soul, not so good for my bank account and liver.
Next came the drinks. I place myself firmly as a lover of cocktails, but as a student that usually means drinking glorified fruit juice at happy hours. I was certainly out of my depth in cocktail knowledge so bear with me describing what the cocktails tasted like because I’m not really sure what I was tasting, I just know it was incredible.
First was the Colonial Smash – Havana Club 7 year old split with mint infused la mauny rum agricole, Gabriel boudier frais, citron vert sherbet, strawberry nectar and spring water. Like me, I am guessing the only thing you have had on this list before is spring water. The only way I could describe it is the best mojito you will ever drink out a bamboo straw, but that doesn’t come close to the complexity and deliciousness of this drink really.
smoky, sumptuous and sexy
Next came the American History Cobbler – Rittenhouse Rye shaken with amontillado sherry, clementine sherbet, fresh clementine and peychaud’s bitters. Smoky, sumptuous and sexy, this was again a gorgeous balance of flavours.
The Snaps Smith was next on the menu, after asking the bartender Ben for the cocktail with the most interesting flavours. Sipsmith London Dry, with sugar snap pea shrub, garden mint, Get 27 and citron vert. I have never been one for fancy decoration on a cocktail as it usually just gets in the way of the drinking. But the smell of the pea pod as you drank this green concoction was as much as part of the taste of this drink as the actual liquid.
Now you may be thinking that the only reason I am gushing so much about how good these cocktails are is because of the alcohol. However I promise this is not the case. Instead, it might have something to do with the owners, Tom and Patrick’s, commitment to every single detail. Tom sat down with us and talked through every aspect of the bar, the idea behind the cocktails and the plan for the future. From the fruit syrups to the wooden beams, everything was made by them and their team. Every drink is a carefully thought out mix of alcohol, bitter, syrup and fruit. The result is a range of beautiful Victorian cocktails, with more exciting things to come (alcohol infused high tea sound good to anyone?).
Now, as we did, I am going to finish on a cracker. Literally. Memories of a Geisha which was a Nori infused ketel one, Akashi- tai saki, plum conserve, fig and plum liqueurs served in a Japanese style tea cup and covered with a seaweed rice cracker. This final cocktail was a suggestion from both bartenders and I can easily see why. I have never been sure what umami is, but I can imagine this cocktail being exactly that. Every element sang together on my tongue, more so than some of the fine dining dishes I have been lucky enough to have in the past.
That’s exactly what it was – a cocktail fine dining experience. So please don’t go there guys, because I want it all to my greedy self.
Oh crap, I’ve turned into a Victorian.