The Alchemist opens at St James Quarter - we get a first look and try a couple of their theatrical cocktails

This place serves some interesting cocktails and a casual food menu

Published 22nd Oct 2021
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

“I’d like to introduce you to Cherry Poppins”, says the molecular mixologist who brings my drink over.

He doesn’t have a ready-to-drink cocktail on his tray, but some gadgetry and liquids.

It happens so fast, like a magic sleight of hand, that I can’t work out how he uses this stuff to construct my drink.

However, the final creation consists of a vodka and cherry liqueur mixture, topped with a large bubble. I poke it and it pops, releasing a plume of smoke. 

This theatricality is the USP of The Alchemist, which has branches in London, including the original ten-year-old venue, Manchester and Leeds, among other cities, and opens its first Scottish bar at St James Quarter today.

Alongside its food menu, which includes bao buns and burgers, the outlet serves spectacular drinks, which look as if they’ve been designed by Harry Potter, Heston Blumenthal and the Doctor Who props department. They change colour, fizz and pop, and all hover around the tenner mark. 

After my Cherry Poppins is finished, I try the Red Dead Zombie.

The glass pitcher that lands on my table is full of something that’s metallic, swirling, jiggling, smoking and also spitting at me. It’s the sort of reaction the Gremlins had when they got wet.

Once I get close enough to it to sip from my straw, it also tastes good, though heady, with a combination of Bacardi Carta Blanca Rum, Wray & Nephew Rum, Grand Marnier, lime, pineapple, cranberry and their secret zombie mix.

Red Dead Zombie

All these theatrical dark-artsy themes seem a bit at odds in the brand new St James Quarter building, but there are some cool features.

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At the entrance, we enjoyed the ceiling projection that involves choosing your horoscope element and spent way too much time hanging out in the foyer pressing buttons, before heading up to the first floor bar.

To celebrate their opening, The Alchemist will be offering free mini tarot readings in conjunction with The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre.

These are available on a first-come first-served basis from 6-8pm on Friday and Sunday. Table bookings available on their website.

Also, on November 8, there will also be an Exclusive Evening of Mediumship. Email for details.

401-403 St James Quarter,

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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