Panda & Sons
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
The Lucky Liquor Co.
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
The Voodoo Rooms
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.
The Paradise Palms
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.
Wedged between the Irish bars of the Grassmarket and the salacious red lights of the ‘Pubic Triangle’, Dragonfly is a cocktail bar cut somewhat adrift from its peers. While by night the Old Town is more commonly associated with pubs and live music than award winning cocktail bars, the decor of this venue best represents the gilt-edged vintage and kitsch that the area is better known for by day. The perfect place to round off a day’s sight seeing, visitors can climb the Royal Mile before slipping down the Castle Wynd steps and directly into Grassmarket Square.
Recommended: The ‘Bajan Basil’, a heady mix of Gay Eclipse rum, Cointreau, lime juice, sugar and fresh basil leaves, served straight up and the ‘Peach, Plum, Pear’, a cognac and champagne based gem.
Dragonfly, 52 West Port Edinburgh EH1 2LD 0131 228 4543
The Huxley / Heads & Tales
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
Spit / Fire
This Dublin Street bar is better known for it’s wide range of beer and whiskey brands but, for me, the sprightly Julep menu is the unique selling point. ‘Agave Barb Sum Sugar’ is a sweeter take on the classic while ‘Don’t Be A Prick’ combines a stronger taste with sound advice. Classic whiskey cocktails such as the ‘Old Fashioned’ and the ‘Sazerac’ are also available, alongside a full food menu on the upper floor.
Recommended: The ‘Kentucky’ Julep, a fragrant Americana classic thats combines Even Williams with mint, sugar and bitters for a clean, simple taste.
Spit/Fire, 26B Dublin Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6NN. 0131 556 5967