Oxford’s Mad Hatter cocktail bar is one of the cities best kept secrets

Down the rabbit hole


Looking for somewhere a little different to spend your evening? Look no further than Oxford’s quirky yet mysterious bar: The Mad Hatter.

A short walk down Iffley road will take you there. And as we soon found out, you’ll be greeted by a trippy looking door-within-a-door, surrounded by walls lined with fuzzy astro-turf.

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The Mad Hatter

It didn’t entirely look like it was open at first, and we hadn’t exactly checked its opening hours, so we proceeded with caution through the first open door.

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Doorception

We were faced with two buttons to press, after which a voice welcomed us with a riddle. Nothing too difficult though, and bartender Joe assures us that it’s only a bit of fun: ”we’ll give you clues until you get it, so don’t be put off by the riddle.”

Ours went like this: “What starts with T, ends with T, and has tea in it?” Sounds simple enough, but after already having had a drink or two, all I could think about was tea and ended up in a state of confusion.

Meanwhile, my slightly more sober friends shook their heads at me and answered with what in hindsight was the most obvious thing ever: a teapot.

 

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Alice and the Intercom

Once into the dimly lit, ambient locale that is the Mad Hatter’s hang out, we were able to relax. We were in! What awaited us was a wide selection of tipples. And really, there’s a cocktail to please everybody, even people who don’t really drink cocktails.

One of the best things about them all is their presentation, coming in a varied and utterly bonkers selection of jam jars, teacups and all kinds of strange looking snifters that had us wondering  whether we were on the right side of the looking glass.

You can even get sharer cocktails in teapots and feel all kinds of fancy while sipping on alcoholic beverages with your mates.

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The King’s Men Sharer

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Fancily spilling my alcoholic libation

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There’s Something for the Ladies in the “Zombie Alice”

During Oxford Uni’s term time, they’re open every Tuesday from 8pm til’ 12am for a jazz night run by the Oxford Uni Jazz Society. ”Last term we had a thirty-piece brass band on that small stage”, says Joe.
But fear not Brookes’ students, we’re allowed in on the party too. Otherwise they’re open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with live bands playing once a month on Fridays, and they occasionally host some stand-up comedy too.

If you’re coming with a larger group of friends, Joe recommends making a reservation: ”It’s recommended, especially if you want to come with a group of people and you want to sit down and get the full experience, try a couple of things. But otherwise you can always walk in and come to the bar anyway. There’s always room for walk-ins.”

Heck, seven of us made it in and got seats just fine, along with some excellent drink recommendations. ”I always say to people: the best drinks depend on what you like. My favourite drink is probably not going to be your favourite drink” says Joe.

”My personal favourite drink on the menu is Gin Fix”. Made with Bold Genever Gin and Lemon and Raspberry syrup, it’s served short and sharp on crushed ice, sure to pack a punch. We even managed to find a cocktail that, after passing it around we all agreed tasted like the heaven-sent essence of Nutella, jar and all. The Duchess’s Cat sure to got us grinning like kitties.

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Thumbs up for The Duchess’s Cat

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

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The Drinks Menu

We found drinks menus scattered around the venue bound in old hardback copies of the original Alice in Wonderland, with the story still in-tact if you you’ve time for a quick read.

With the dim lighting, electro-jazz music and books to boot, I started to feel like I was in a speak-easy. Though the books aren’t the only oddities you’ll find in there, there’s little details all over the place that kept our eyes wandering while we decided on our drinks, and I’m sure I spotted a retro corded phone in there somewhere to order drinks from…

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One of the Hatter’s Many Hats

It’s not as new as we thought,  but it definitely needs more love and attention than it gets, as it makes for a really unique night out, or in our case, the beginning of a great night out. Plus it’s definitely more exciting ordering cocktails from here than from Spoons.

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Our Posse

“Because of the way it looks, and because of the riddle some people get a pre-emptive nervousness about it. Also, we’re not far out, but it’s just that little bit across from Cowley that people don’t think to come to. Try it out though, is what I would say, it’s good fun.”