Though there are many different characters of pubs in Oxford – from the displays of college crests in Chequers Inn or Turf Tavern, the favourite of Oxford’s historic BNOCs – none offers as unique a nocturnal adventure as the Mad Hatter, a speakeasy in Cowley. If you’re sick of overhearing discussions on the realities of libertarianism, the anatomy of a mushroom, or the best CV format to land a graduate job with a salary of over 45k, step through this looking glass and indulge in the unique experience offered by the Mad Hatter. Whether you’re craving a midnight tea party, a boozy karaoke session or a drag queen bingo night – this is the place to be if you want to get away from Oxford chat. Through the purple haze of this bar, its whimsical nature comes alive as you sip cocktails from teacups, removing the garb of intellectual pretension and donning that of delightful absurdity.
Through the purple haze of this bar, its whimsical nature comes alive as you sip cocktails from teacups, removing the garb of intellectual pretension and donning that of delightful absurdity.
Each aspect of this establishment is authentic: the bar’s walls are littered with eccentric decor of rabbits in waistcoats; the fantastic staff, who are often dressed as mysterious witches conjuring potions behind the bar; and the inexhaustible list of unique cocktails, served in dainty crockery. This bacchanalian bar boasts rare beverages, with drinks named after beloved characters such as ‘The Tweedledum’ and ‘The Tweedledee’ – dangerously drinkable cocktails served in comically large teapots. There are also drinks with delightfully named puns such as ‘The Bread and Butterflies’, which actually tastes like a slice of toast with jam, as well as enticing shots. ‘The Crack Baby’ and ‘The Head in the Clouds’ are both vodka shots that have a fruity twist to ward off the wince from shooting pure liquor.
This bacchanalian bar boasts rare beverages, with drinks named after beloved characters such as ‘The Tweedledum’ and ‘The Tweedledee’ – dangerously drinkable cocktails served in comically large teapots.
The Mad Hatter also provides a range of events. Perfect for a birthday party is their Cocktail Masterclass, where you can learn the secrets behind the concoctions of an award-winning mixologist. Live music is another special treat, from the up-and-coming bands of Oxford on a Friday night and live jazz and a reggae DJ on a Saturday. This wonderland, however, is ruled by Rusty Kate, Queen of Drag (and many hearts). This Queen, an Oxford graduate, is pursuing a career in drag across the South of England and their cheeky set is filled with laughter, music and bingo.
So why not swap the mortar board for the Mad Hat(ter) this weekend and indulge in the surreal and fantastical delights of Cowley’s Mad Hatter?
Image Description: A mural of Alice in Wonderland on the outside of the Mad Hatter, featuring Alice speaking to the Cheshire Cat.
Image Credit: Asmaani Shukla