Imagine you are an ex-pat who has just arrived in the Netherlands. You find yourself sitting in a small speakeasy-style bar in Rotterdam. The room is darkened and on the table, before you, there is a selection of tarot-style cards.
Beside you is a kindly bartender dressed in medical whites and they are asking you to choose a card. While each card has the potential to tell you what is fated, more specifically, they are intended to predict the drink you will be consuming in the near future.
You see if you look closely you will realise that these cards are not really tarot cards at all but the new menu for DR., a bar located in Rotterdam’s formerly notorious Scheepvaartkwartier district.
Inspired by a friend who is into Tarot, Chi-Ho Ta, who manages the bar, believes that having an authentic theme to the menu can enhance the experience for a guest (or as the bar calls them, patients).
At DR., they try to implement a doctors vibe into everything they do, from the doctor’s coats worn by the staff, to the medicinal bottles, storytelling and terminology. Even the drinks are often linked to the medicinal world through not only their concept but also their ingredients.
And the tarot cards menu is no different. Each card is authentically related to a medical issue. That then ties it into the drink that is prescribed.
“We always try to make sure it’s always as realistic and truthful as possible, I think the guests also appreciate that,” said Ta. “It’s never just made up information and references, especially guests that are into tarot see that and like that.”
How it works is that guests will get the Dr. tarot deck, the bar’s selection of 24 cards selected from the entire deck. They can pick their own card/drink, with each card has the tarot image on the front and on the back the name, ingredients and an explanation of the card. The drink is linked to the theme of the card and flavour profile.
Located in a townhouse that was once home to prostitutes, mobsters and rowdy sailors, the space has been running as a ‘medical’ bar since 2012. And as you would with any Dr., you need to make an appointment.
“The experience starts when our patients make an appointment and get a description to our practice,” continues Ta. “Then after ringing the bell and entering the bar, we like to take it to the next step and continue the experience with a themed menu so it’s not just a ‘regular bar’ from that point on.
“The theme of the bar makes us think in a certain way. We’re always trying to find different subjects that are connected to the medicinal world.”
Like any Dr.’s surgery, the bar is relatively small, with around 30 seats in total. Yet, unlike your local medical practitioner, there is no waiting once you enter and these bartenders will never ask you to tell them when it hurts.
“It’s always a team effort,” Ta explains of the cocktail making process. “One of us usually comes up with a theme, then we all do out homework, work out ideas and then integrate that into the drinks.
And if you do find yourself at that table with the cards in front of you, a few of your choices could be –
Judgement: Don Q Spiced, De Kuyper Banana, Ancho Reyes, lime, pandan.
This card symbolizes issues with man-made pollution, toxins and waste. To restore the balance, we start off with a highly sustainably made rum from Puerto Rico, Don Q. This is spiced and fruited up with Ancho, chilli and banana liqueur, while pandan brings aroma and a green toxic hue.
Star: Yaguara Branca Cachaca, St. Germain, Select Aperitivo, red beet, balsamic vinegar, spiced bitters
Star signifies issues with blood circulation. Beet juice signifies the blood, while the spice keeps the blood flowing. Backed by an earthy Cachaca and floral elderflower, the drink is finished off with bitters.
World: Rutte Paradijswijn, Chartreuse Verte, Kamm & Sons, cherry cordial
World can mean melancholy about ageing and issues with ageing. A malty genever aged in “Paradise” is the base of this riff on ‘ The Last Word’. It is mixed with a herbal elixir of life, Chartreuse, a bitter aperitif and a sweet and sour cherry cordial.
Lovers: Hendrick’s Orbium, Luxardo Maraschino, Kwai Feh, simple syrup, citric acid solution, Asian pigeon wing tea
Lovers connect things and represent issues with any part of the body that comes in pairs. As with lovers, this drink comes in two parts that complement each other. Gin, is mixed with sweet and fruity lychee then maraschino is added then balanced out with tarty citric acid.
Temperance: Banks 7, Bacardi Cuatro, Wray & Nephew, Pimento Dram, soursop, lime, turmeric
This card rules anything hot, fast and intense, exotic places, fevers and burns. This tiki drink is composed of a variety of rums and tropical guanábana juice, while allspice and turmeric spice it all up.