Accessed through a secret door hidden behind a haphazard bookshelf, this vintage barbershop speakeasy revives the 1920s prohibition era with elegance and authenticity. The cocktails are expertly prepared, charmingly named and a visual feast. Interestingly, Panda & Sons also serve cocktails designed for groups. ‘Liquid Brunch’, a mixture of Ketel One, chamomile tea, ginger wine and fennel syrup presented in a teapot, serves three while ‘The Milky Bar Hero’, a combination of gin, liqueur, cognac, rose water and condensed milk, serves six.
Recommended: ‘The Birdcage’, a sensory delight, combines Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve, rhubarb and lemongrass shrub, Aperol, Angostura Bitters and a cinnamon and clove mix, served in a smoking bell jar.
Panda And Sons, 79 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 4NF 0131 220 0443
13 is the lucky number at this Queen Street establishment. The menu of 13 cocktails, updated quarterly, is created using just 13 spirits, setting it apart from from the extensively stocked Queen street contemporaries listed. Further differentiation comes from the decor which is fresh and bright with natural light, pavement seating and a dazzling chequered floor. The quirky and inventive menu incorporates ice-cream floats, Indian lassi and smoke infused trout alongside a dizzying array of additional elements to create a list that is truly unique.
Recommended: The ‘Megawatt 2.0’, a fruity vermouth based concoction served in a lightbulb.
The Lucky Liquor, 39A, Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 3NH 0131 226 3976
Located in the heart of the city centre, The Voodoo Rooms is a multi-award winning historical venue serving some of the most inventive cocktails in the city. Combining the luxury edge of the Moulin Rouge with a dash of Addams Family decor, this gothic, palm tree filled space is as beautiful as it is inviting. The rum and tequila selection is extensive but the cocktail menu is the jewel in the crown.
Recommended: ‘The Exuberant Mr. Lockhart’, a Grande Absente flame blasted creation containing Wild Turkey American Honey, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, lemon, apple and peche bitters.
Self-described “neon-lit dive bar” The Paradise Palms has everything a sane person could want from a bar; eccentric decor, custom made cocktails and an AC/DC pinball machine. The colours are vibrant, the music is uplifting and the atmosphere is festive. The venue has a weird and wonderful aesthetic, catering to those with a taste for the quirky and serving as a home to the Pollyanna Cabaret and Variety show, a monthly book club, open mic sessions, ‘sci-curious’ soirees and more. Go early for food (the Ninja Buns are frighteningly addictive) and spend the evening enjoying the spectacle.
Recommended: ‘The Higher Place’, a joyful mix of raspberry gin, hazelnut syrup, peach liqueur and prosecco.
While technically two separate establishments, both of these cocktail utopias are located within the same building, affording me the thrilling opportunity to sneak an extra venue onto this list. At street level is The Huxley, a light airy space selling burgers, milkshakes and an ever changing list of glorious cocktails. Below The Huxley and accessed through a separate entrance is Head & Tales, a liquid treasure trove and Edinburgh Gin distillery site. Watching the contents of two copper stills bubble, boil and vaporise while sipping the fruits of the process is a unique experience and the relaxed atmosphere makes this venue the perfect place for an overdue catch-up.
Recommended: at The Huxley give ‘Smoking Barrels’ a mixture of in house blended whiskey, camomile sugar and peach bitters. Below the stairs, try ‘Don’t Speak It’s Name’, a Blackwoods, pear and herbal blend.
The Huxley, 1-3 Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AE 0131 229 3402