Of course, when you think of Scotland, you think of whisky. But, did you know that the country is renowned for their gin as well? Having done Edinburgh a few times and having had my share of straight whisky tastings, this last visit with Seattle bestie and cocktail partner in crime, Wendy, was the perfect occasion to sink into the ‘mixology’ scene and explore different ways to drink in the Scottish capital. As the Tales on Tour host for the past two years, Edinburgh not only has some hot cocktail stops but is sure to be seeing more in the near future. After a few days of diligent research, I present you with my five favorites for Edinburgh cocktail bars:
Lucky Liquor: Cool but Constrained Creativity
My top pick on our Edinburgh cocktail tour, Lucky Liquor, selects thirteen bottles, creates thirteen cocktails with them and runs the menu for thirteen weeks. It’s bright, fun, open, easy-going and all vinyl (you hipsters, you!) Plus, you can take cocktails to go in sweet little packaging like the Brooklyn or Six Cylinder. (We did!) And, pick up a bottle of Seawolf, the first white rum distilled in Scotland and also the brainchild of the team behind this bar.
Bryant & Mack: Scottish Speakeasy Style
This pocket-sized speakeasy, open for just a couple of years, is neither easy nor impossible to stumble upon – but it’s best to know about it in advance so you can make reservations in the cozy no-standing-room bar. Make it extra special by scoring a seat at the counter and enjoy something from the cocktail menu delivered to you in “Confidential Files” served up by some seriously cool bar staff. Try something with one of my personal faves, Pickering’s Oak Aged gin.
Dragonfly: Funky and Fun
Having been around for some time, Dragonfly has a loyal following and a rep as one of Edinburgh’s cocktail culture kickstarters. The decor is quirky and eclectic – think chandeliers and kicky karate (or is it judo?) graphic wallpaper. The staff is both knowledgeable and laidback. Daytime drinkers, take note: They open at 4pm!
Panda & Sons: Behind the Bookcase….
Panda & Sons is hidden, yet accessible. They’re looking to create a relatively large space, in which a range of people can feel both cool and comfortable. They offer up both craft beers as well as craft cocktails…even ‘cutting edge’ stuff like smoked drinks under bell jars. (and a lot of wine, too). The menu is fun but the guys behind the bar can do some topnotch classics as well. And, their tabasco popcorn is going to be your new favorite nosh!
Bramble: The Hidden Bar Everyone Loves
After walking past it three or four times, we found the door (hint: look down!) Bramble has been around for five plus years and has a strong rep (it’s part of the same group as my top pick, Lucky Liquor). It’s understated, low light and underground. Bar Staff are sweet and – in our short experience – were spot on with recommending something to anyone who sidles up to the bar. We tried some new (to us!) gins and I hear they are dabbling in barrel-aging. Try a Bramble (obvs!) given their name.
As always, best is subjective and I’ve picked my personal favourites. If you’re in Edinburgh, check out my top picks. But also do some research and try some other spots. A few places I also liked but didn’t hit my personal top five or wanted to hit but didn’t have time: The Printing Press, Under the Stairs, Tigerlily, Ricks, The Last Word Saloon, Bon Vivant. So keep ‘em on your radar and create your own top five cocktail bars list. In terms of restaurants, I also enjoyed a cocktail at The Kitchin and Timberyard before tucking into a couple of excellent meals.