Edinburgh Festival Food and Drink Top Picks: The Edinburgh Cocktail Festival

The Mixolosopher discovers mixed drinks nirvana with the Edinburgh Cocktail Festival tucked away just off the Royal Mile.

Published 21st Aug 2017
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

Edinburgh in August can be a little bewildering.

The High Street disappears under a slowly-meandering river of people while costumed arms thrust flyers into faces at every turn.

Buildings across the city spawn vibrant banderoles and huge black numbers.

The huge crowds and constant impromptu performances can sometimes get a bit too much. Picture: TSPL

Acapella ditties and banjo-pickin’ Dixies vie for space in people’s ears, all losing out to the angry parps of frustrated drivers. Selfie sticks. Selfie sticks everywhere.

Anyone can be forgiven for suffering some Festival fatigue but solace may come in the form of the latest addition to the Fringe – the Edinburgh Cocktail Festival.

Picture: ECF

A short downhill stroll along the Royal Mile brings you to the New Waverley development.

This largely outdoor area has been home to a burgeoning food and
flea market (strangely enough called Food + Flea) since the start of the year but has been transformed into a mixological wonderland for most of this month.

The relatively small area is stuffed to the gills with stalls, booths and kiosks; a Chairman’s Reserve Rum Mai Tai shack over there, a Fever Tree Perfect Serve caravan here, a Copper Dog ‘Dog House’ round the corner.

Picture: ECF

Rapscallion are dishing out sustainable sodas from a giant orange, Ginerosity (the world’s first social enterprise gin) are shaking up some vegan cocktails while the guys over at #LoveScotch and Old Pulteney are convincing stick-in- the-muds that you CAN
actually mix your malt.

Cocktails Festival
Picture: ECF

All this plus some top-quality street food, regular live music and comedy acts as well as talks by some of the biggest names in the drinks industry.

Ubiquitous Chip announce Christmas food and drink menu - including festive cocktails and cosy roof terrace
Picture: ECF

Just last week Blair Bowman (he of World Whisky Day fame) offered his views on long drinks with scotch and Elizabeth Pearse related some of New Orleans’ rich booze-fuelled history, while Wednesday sees the Lucky Liquor Co. take over Bramble’s pop-up bar to officially launch the first of their Lucky Liqueurs – a sweet spirit flavoured with chuckleberry (a fruit somewhere between a blackcurrant and a gooseberry). It’s enough to intoxicate even the designated drivers.

Cocktails Festival
Picture: ECF

The whole thing is open to the public and entry is free but to really get the best from the ECF you’d be wise to purchase a fetching cotton wristband for £15.

This little strip of fabric gets you access to the masterclasses where you can flash infuse your own gin in the Tanqueray Ten Forest, learn how to stir up an Old Fashioned or experiment with tomato-less Bloody Marys in the Ketel One Kitchen (with a free drink at the end of each).

Picture: ECF

Wave it at any of the drinks stalls to also receive a discount on their wares – as well as £5 cocktails at participating bars around Edinburgh – and get free entry to Sneaky Pete’s music venue (or discounted entry at the weekend).

The Edinburgh Cocktail Festival is open from midday to 11pm every day until August 28th .

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• For more details check out their Facebook page. 

Iain Meldrum (aka Mixolosopher) has over a decade of experience at the top of the drinks industry as both a bartender and trainer. He is passionate about all things alcoholic - though in a responsible and philosophical way, of course.
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