While pints often put me on a downer, cocktails always make me happy.
Thus, the return of Edinburgh Cocktail Week is a thing to celebrate.
This year’s event will run from October 11-24, and features the largest ever collection of 100 bars, hotels and restaurants. There will be the Cocktail Village, on Festival Square, for which you require a vaccine passport. However, individual venues are also offering cut price signature cocktails for £4, if you show your wristband, costing £8.80. I had a sneaky quaff of some of these limited-edition creations on a Wednesday evening crawl.
First up is Lothian Road independent The Raging Bull. In common with the other bars, they’re now offering table service, and it feels spaced out and safe, with hand sanitiser, QR codes and masked-up staff. Their speciality is the espresso martini, and, inspired by autumn and bonfires, their Edinburgh Cocktail Week special will be the Toasted Marshmallow Espresso Martini. It contains Kahlua, espresso and vodka, with a toasted Flump on a stick as a garnish. They’ll also be serving this in the Cocktail Village, where they have a spot for the duration.
It’s a sugary joy, and I feel shaken and stirred en route to our next destination - NQ64, which opened on Lothian Road earlier this year. This is a much younger bar, with loud Nineties hip-hop and a room that’s lined with vintage arcade games, including Mortal Kombat. I feel conspicuously old - like a mum who’s popped in to pick up her grown-up sprog.
Their special cocktail is the Plasma Blasta and, like the luminous galactic paintings all over this place’s walls, it glows bright yellow. That’s thanks to the addition of edible UV powder, along with Porter’s Gin and a concoction that contains pale ale and sherbet. It’s garnished with a retro flying saucer sweetie, and tastes a bit like Robinsons Double Strength diluting juice. It must have some booze in it though, as I convince myself I can beat Pac-Man, and splurge all my game tokens on one machine.
Next is Hanover Street’s Superico, which just won the Bar, Club & Lounge category at the Hospitality Design Awards in New York. This is more my speed. There are comfy and plush velvety chairs, and a huge feature light that looks like a harvest moon.
They’ve created something very sophisticated - the Four Seasons Cobbler, which contains fino sherry, Roku gin, Noilly Prat, grapefruit, orange, lemon, fresh mint and yuzu peel. Apparently, it’s a cobbler when the citrus fruit ingredients are muddled together in a tin (hopefully not an old baked bean can). Served on crushed ice, it’s subtly fruity and fresh.
Last up is The Basement. This used to be a regular haunt, but I haven’t darkened its door for about a decade.
I sample their take on the toreador, which, our barman says, was the precursor to a margarita. The Suerte Suprema contains Olmeca Tequila, apricot brandy, apricot and lemongrass puree and agave and nectar syrup. It’s lovely but very strong, so I only manage half. I have reached my limit on a school night, when it comes to drinking responsibly.
Still, I’m feeling most excellent. Edinburgh Cocktail Week makes me happy, as does tequila.