Gin Joint of the Month: Doctor Ink's Curiosities, Exeter

Doctor Ink’s Curiosities

Customs House
43 The Quay
Exeter, Devon
EX2 4AN

Patrick Fogarty bartender Doctor Inks Curiosities

Photo: Matt Austin

If you’re eager for more of the ingenuity and skill that went into February's custom Craft Gin Club cocktail, the Great Western Flip, it’s time to head to Exeter – and find yourself on a journey to another place and time.

In a formerly dilapidated fish and chip shop, Patrick Fogarty and his staff work absolute magic behind the bar of Doctor Ink’s Curiosities, one of the most exciting cocktail bars in the UK, and a firm favourite of Salcombe Gin’s Angus and Howard.

But Patrick’s entrée into the world of bartending was unexpected. Having moved to London to take a spot on the jewellery design course at London’s Central Saint Martins, Patrick took on bar work to finance this notoriously expensive degree.

“I started in London’s Mayfair bar scene, at the very bottom – as a bar back,” he explains. “Within a few years of really hard graft, I had worked my way up to managing one of the country’s best cocktail bars. I was fortunate to have training from some of the industry’s most pioneering bartenders.”

Having grown up in Devon, Patrick was eager to bring what he learned at London’s top bars back to Exeter. He says, “Our main ethos is to deliver a capital city-level bar whilst maintaining a relaxed, West Country attitude.”

One look at the abandoned fish and chip shop that would become Doctor Ink’s and he knew it was the perfect place to set up shop. And, once he got his hands on it, he transformed it into a Victorian bordello-cum-tavern-cum-opium den – in other words, the perfect place to escape the day-to-day and enter another world. The Victorian stereoscope that inspired it all now sits proudly at the end of the bar.

Doctor Inks Curiosities Exeter Interior

Photo: Matt Austin

But why was Patrick drawn to the Victorian era, when so many others head straight for the 1920s speakeasy? “The golden era of cocktails is wrongly thought to be Prohibition,” he explains, “but that’s a misconception. The true golden age was in Victorian America, pioneered by the likes of Jerry Thomas, Harry Johnson and W.T. Bootheby, who were the first superstar bartenders to put pen to paper and create the first cocktail books. It’s from these tomes we take inspiration for our drinks.”

And such wonderful drinks they are. Each is a story in its own right, pulled from the headlines of 200-year-old newspapers or Victorian poetry, or gothic novels or the lives of historical figures. Each drinks list is six months in the making, and every drink is a must-try. But these aren’t cocktails that take themselves too seriously.

 “We wanted a sense of play, and this frequently comes across in the drinks,” says Patrick. “Every drink should have a sense of narrative, and take the customer on a journey. We also try to be as sustainable as possible – plastic did not exist in the Victorian era, and as such it doesn’t exist at Doctor Ink’s.”

Behind bar liquor bottles at Doctor Inks Curiosities Exeter

Photo: Matt Austin

Using local Devon produce and the incredible imaginations of Patrick’s three bartenders, these cocktails taste as good as they look – and, according to Patrick, Exeter is more than ready for London-calibre cocktails within easy reach.

“People often ask if we’re a bit progressive for Exeter,” he says. “But my view is that people are crying out for new experiences – you can find exotic and ground-breaking food outside of capital cities, and that should be true for drinks also.”

For just a taste of the magic that await at Doctor Ink’s, try a mysterious ‘Oracle’ using the recipe below – and, if you’re lucky, a trip to Patrick’s beautiful bar is in your future.

Oracle

Oracle cocktail Doctor Inks Curiosities Exeter.jpg

Ingredients:

30ml Gin (At Doctor Ink’s they use Hendrick’s Orbium)
20ml Jasmine & Gentian Petal-Infused Lychee Liqueur
20ml Akashi-Tai Honjozo Sake
15ml Manzanilla Sherry

Method:

  1. Combine your ingredients in a jug and stir with ice.
  2. Strain into a glass orb, and garnish with a prediction of your future…