Breaking Cocktail Convention at Curiosity SLC

Beer & Spirits

Wandering around the Central Ninth neighborhood of Salt Lake City, you can easily spot the crisp, white, symmetrical building sporting a bright pink door frame and the whimsically painted name Curiosity, inducing a barrage of inquiries in the minds of pedestrians. Curiosity stands as a premiere zero-proof drinking establishment, providing delectable drinks to daring tastebuds. Just as Alice was curious enough to crawl down the rabbit hole and James into the Giant Peach, Curiosity inspires a sense of childlike wonder in all those who enter, with intoxicating interiors akin to a retro-chic Jetsonian flat occupied by a surrealist Strawberry Shortcake. Straying from tradition in the sense of what a bar is supposed to feel like isn’t the only thing Curiosity excels in, proudly serving cocktails that contain adaptogens, nootropics and essence infusions—proving that being adventurous doesn’t have to include alcohol.

Curiosity's crisp, white, symmetrical building sports a bright pink door frame and its whimsically painted name, create a barrage of inquiries in the minds of pedestrians.
Photo: Bonneville Jones

A commonality among bar-goers is seeking a space to loosen up, with bars offering a sanctuary for people to convene and unravel the tightly wound pressures of adulthood. Curiosity’s slogan, “Same Habits, Different Ingredients,” aims to retain the connectivity that drinking culture cultivates by substituting natural mood boosters where whiskey would usually be. “We want to create an alternative space to connect and socialize that doesn’t revolve around alcohol,” says Co-owner Raegan Plewe. “We’re trying to make it open to every type of person from every walk of life; whether you’re a bartender or completely sober, it doesn’t really matter, we’re just creating an environment where you can explore intimate connection and flavors.”

“People think of sobriety or not drinking as a negative thing, like you’re limited, [like] it’s reduced. We wanted to do the opposite of that, to expand people’s worlds.”

Plewe and her business partner, Erica Bruin, fronted Curiosity upon realizing alcohol wasn’t serving their lives in the same way that it used to. “We’re not 100% sober, but we realized that so much of drinking is the habit of it, the ritual of it,” Plewe says. The “curious” movement of sobriety prompted them to dig further into getting creative with recipes, prompting reflection on the degree and purposes to which we alter our consciousness. “I love the word ‘curiosity’ because it’s expansive instead of limiting,” Plewe says. “People think of sobriety or not drinking as a negative thing, like you’re limited, [like] it’s reduced. We wanted to do the opposite of that, to expand people’s worlds. There’s so many incredible products, so many incredible conversations that could be had when drinking isn’t involved.”

The extensive variety centers Curiosity as one of the only spots in our city to engage with these funky, flavorful concoctions while still maintaining a degree of community and locality. There is an intricate shelving structure that Plewe and Bruin installed themselves, accompanied by a cold fridge adorned with bottles of euphorics and herbal tonics sourced from all over the world. The duo didn’t want to limit the nonalcoholic element exclusively to the Curiosity brick and mortar, offering a “bottle shop” where patrons can pick up bottles of the zero-proof spirits to take home or to purchase as samples in addition to the in-house menu.

“We want to create an alternative space to connect and socialize that doesn’t revolve around alcohol.”

Plewe incorporates her background in specialty coffee at Curiosity in an unprecedented way. “I felt like that was a market that wasn’t being reached in Salt Lake: beautiful, delicious, specialty coffee that you can consume late at night. We have our coffee nerds, our cocktail nerds—the common ground is just exploring interesting tastes,” Plewe says. The bar offers renditions of classic cocktails, such as Man in a Hat, which is a strong, decadent and spicy rendition of a Manhattan with an uplifting effect. Curiosity’s coffee drinks, such as the off-menu Nick and Nori (coffee, yuzu sour, with nori garnish and salt) are complex, multi-dimensional and robust.

As Dorothy Parker once wrote, “The cure for boredom is curiosity.” With poetry nights, conversation nights, book clubs and late-night DJs in the near future, the cure for boredom in your palate is at Curiosity. Check out their mesmerizing Instagram @curiosityslc and website for rotating menus and events.

Read more of SLUG‘s boozy features:
Sweet Vinyl Bakeshop’s Booze-Infused Desserts
Simplicity Cocktails: Experimentation Distilled