Dr Watson: Leeuwarden’s secret speakeasy

So apparently there’s a top secret speakeasy bar in the centre of the capital of Friesland, Leeuwarden. I say ‘apparently’, because I’ve never seen or heard of it before in my life.

Just a few days ago though, my schoonmem came to visit with a very interesting package: a make your own cocktail set with every ingredient fully measured out and prepped, two beautiful glasses, and the full recipe card to mix them by hand for the perfect Friday afternoon tipple.

Now, I’m not a massive drinker, but if I’m going to let loose, it’ll be with something fruity, and often, something that tastes like pop. You know, the type that slides down the old drink pipe a little too easy? Cocktails are perfect for me, so I was thrilled that she’d A) managed to bag herself this sweet deal in the first place, and B) decided to pass them onto little old me.

Wanna see what she popped by with? Take a look.

The gorgeous package, all prepped and ready to go

What’s a speakeasy bar?

During the prohibition era in the States back in the 1920’s, speakeasy bars and nightclubs were illicit, darkly lit dens for secret meetings and parties where the alcohol ran free. Hidden behind the premise that only coffee and soft drinks were served in speakeasies, these places often had a few dodgy dealings going on behind the scenes (yes, more than just the serving of illegal alcohol).

Nicknamed a speakeasy because you’d have to whisper the secret password to gain entry, these dingy yet most likely delightful cellar spaces were mostly found in northern cities, like Chicago and New York. I guess they finally made their way to the Netherlands though, hey?

Dr Watson – the secret speakeasy bar in Leeuwarden

Dr Watson is so secret, I’d never even heard of it. You’ve only lived in the country for two and a half years you silly bat, no wonder you’ve not heard of it I hear you cry. The thing is, I love Leeuwarden. I visit often. I’ve been to other cafes on the same street as Dr Watson. Well I think I have, if the street we think it’s on is in fact the right street. It’s hard to know I guess.

Some important information for you:

  • 📍 Somewhere in Leeuwarden
  • ⏰ Weds/Thurs – 20:00 – 01:00 & Fri/Sat – 20:00 – 03:00
  • 📞 +31 (0)58 843 7243
  • 💻 info@drwatson.frl

On heading to their website, you’ll find out an extra tidbit about where the glorious cocktail originated, and apparently they actually exist all thanks to the prohibition movement in the roaring twenties: “In order to disguise the taste of industrial alcohol, the bartenders incorporated lemonade and fruit into their drinks during the drying phase. It meant the birth of the cocktail.” Not too bad if you ask me.

You’re also given a hint as to how to find the bar, but it’s not much to go on: “Look for a doctor’s office on the Eewal”. I’ll certainly be searching for it the next time I head into the city.

It’s important to note the ‘doctor’s’ aspect of this speakeasy. Apparently housed in an old doctors ‘office, this bar takes their role as doc for the evening pretty seriously. Uw gezondheid ons een zorgor in plain English: Your health, our care stands proud at the top of their website. It’s not surprising then that our care package included test tubes of liqueur and testing pots that would usually house something a little less delicious than alcohol. It’s all done very well. And while I can’t speak for what the inside of Dr Watson looks like just yet, I’ll bet they’ve made this doctor’s office look pretty special from the inside.

Online you can book a table (whether that’s only here since Corona or is something they’ve always relied on, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely best to book a spot), and peruse the menu, which consists of 16 pages of snacks, warm bites, Gin & Tonics, Cocktails, beers, wines, and sodas, as well as mocktails for those who wish to remember their visit with a little more clarity the following day. Either way, there’s something for everyone, and I’m pretty impressed by the wide range of snacks to help line the stomach.

Our cocktail package

We were so impressed by what came in our cocktail package from Dr Watson: take a look at what was inside!

Cocktail #1: Narcolepsia

Cocktail #1: Narcolepsia

The first cocktail was Narcolepsia, which included: Licor 43, Ginger Ale, lemon juice, grapefruit, cinammon, and star anise, fully measured out into the test tubes and pots that you can see in the photograph. Their attention to detail is clearly on another level.

The instructions were simple (even for this novice Dutchie in training). We simply filled the glass with ice, and added each ingredient one by one, stirring the concoction with the cinnamon stick as directed, and adding the grapefruit to the rim of the glass.

So how did it taste?

It was delicious;smooth, sweet, and fruity – my perfect cocktail. I love a citrus base, and this was tart without being sour, which is always a plus. On top of that, the addition of the cinnamon and star anise flavours made it warmer, and sweeter, without sending it over the edge.

Star rating: 🍹🍹🍹🍹🍹 – yes, yes, yes, I’ll have another.

One down, one to go.

Cocktail #2 – Us Mem

Cocktail #2: Us Mem

The second cocktail in the package was Us Mem. A Frisian name, Us Mem literally means, our mother. There’s a cow statue on the edge of the city with the same name too. Take from that what you will, but this is literally where Frisian cows come from, so they’re pretty big here in the north.

Made with Boomsma Gin, lemon, blackberry liqueur, and cane sugar, Us Mem was easier to make: kind of a throw it all in and stir kinda jobby. We popped the strawberries in as a garnish and it was ready to go.

So how did it taste?

Now this one was less sweet and a little bit too bitter for my tastebuds. My trusty sidekick and cocktail helper R lapped it up though, and it was definitely his favourite of the pair. This is a fresh cocktail that certainly has a kick, and it’s perfect for anyone who likes their cocktails a little stronger and far less sweet.

Star rating: 🍹🍹🍹🍹 – not my favourite, but still a stellar cocktail choice!

A speakeasy bar worth the search

I’ll be on the hunt for Dr Watson in the very near future, and hopefully taking a few pals along for the ride while I’m at it. I’m not a club kinda woman, but I am a dark and dingy cellar with sweet sweet cocktails kind of woman, so this could definitely be my new favourite haunt.

Our finished creations

So how were our cocktails? Gone within 5 minutes. Utterly delicious. In fact, I’m dying to find out what the rest of their menu has to offer.

🍹 My order for the evening? I’ll be starting off with a Fryslan Stormy, a mixture of Beerenberg, ginger beer, lime, and bitters, before moving onto another Narcolepsia if I’m honest. As long as there’s a portion of bitterballen on the side, I’ll be happy.

Check out Dr Watson’s menu here and tell me what you’ll be ordering!

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  • Nikki says:

    I know you will disagree but I will deffo be ordering the Vanilla Coke cocktail! Yummy! With a side order of nachos, of course.

    Please can we try and find this secret lil place next time we’re in Leeuwarden? Or heck, let’s just plan a trip to Leeuwarden simply to find this place!

    • Simone says:

      As soon as I saw that option on the menu I knew that you’d pick it. Yes I definitely disagree haha but each to their own :p the side order of nachos is definitely something we can order though.
      Definitely down to go on a bar hunt with you ASAP!!!

  • Vicky Wood says:

    Oh how very Agatha!!! I’ve heard there’s secret bars in Chester and Manchester. I’d love to go one. X

    • Simone says:

      It is isn’t it!!! How exciting! Oh Vicky, you’ve got to find them – I’ll come on the hunt with you. It makes me wonder how they make their money though. What if they’re too secret xD