August has descended upon Edinburgh once more and, like Claudia Winkleman’s hair style, it’s all about the Fringe.
Nothing can toast the success of an excellent performance (or indeed cushion the blow of a terrible one) like a well-made cocktail so, for your consideration, here is a list of places to find the most notable potables being served during the Edinburgh Festival.
(2-8 W Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9JP)
The first bar on our list is just stone’s throw from Summerhall (venue 26). Formery the Royal School of Veterinary Studies, Summerhall is now a renowned hub for the creative arts.
It’s also home to Pickering’s – an award-winning local gin. So what could be better after getting your fill of Festival artistry than to stroll down Buccleuch Street to dedicated gin bar 56 North and sample some tasty tipples?
With an impressive list of literally hundreds of gins, and an ever-changing cocktail menu, 56 North is a perfect place for juniper-philes.
That other Festival stalwart The Pleasance is hardly a Tolkien-esque trek away either.
Cocktails typically cost between £7 and £10.
(39A Queen Street, EH2 3NH)
The closest thing Edinburgh has to a seasonal cocktail bar, The LLC has a bespoke and regularly changing back-bar incorporating several house-made ingredients and on-site ageing methods.
August sees the thirteenth iteration of their quarterly drinks offerings and, come Festival time, they will play host to the High Noon Saloon in association with Buffalo Trace; a nightly screening of a classic western with two complimentary cocktails, popcorn and tasters all for the measly ticket price of £15.
Drinks on offer include a bottle-aged Brooklyn, Sarsaparilla Julep and their signature Boilermaker.
(1-3 York Place, EH1 3EB)
Part of the PBH Free Fringe, Venue 383 on York Place with be hosting live comedy from noon- till late every night, with food and drinks available until 3am.
The cocktail menu will be in constant flux throughout the Festival since the high calibre bartenders will conjure new concoctions as they see fit, including a punch du jour. Drinks should clock in around the £7.50 mark and organic burgers and accompaniments will be provided by Feed of Stockbridge.
(7 Hanover Street EH2 1DJ)
It’s been little more than a year since this funfair-flecked dive bar opened its rather hard-to- find doors to the public. The brains behind the already outstanding Panda & Sons have dreamt up a seriously innovative and truly exciting concept, with 50’s Deep South stylings, alcoholic ice creams and a claw-crane machine for picking cocktail ingredients at random.
The bar entrance is hidden in plain sight on Hanover Street - slap bang in the city centre and, during the Festival, Hoot will be serving their decidedly adult frozen delights from the Señor Scoop shack outside the Assembly Rooms on George Street.
(55 Lothian Street EH1 1HB)
Getting a head start on the Festival frivolities, drinks company Thunder Road Emporium have opened a pop-up bar in former Catholic church (and one-time soup kitchen) Jericho House. The site is right across the road from Bristo Square’s Pleasance Dome and within spitting distance of the Festival Theatre.
Thunder Road’s quirky portfolio is on offer – including the UK’s first bottled Bacon Bourbon – and the venue promises to offer similarly unconventional cocktails such as claypot-aged Negronis, Parma-ham Martinis and alcoholic candyfloss.
There will be live entertainment throughout the night in keeping with the general air of oddness, with everything from jazz and blues bands and burlesque shows to knight fights and ‘dark’ magicians. The venue is free to enter and is open from 11am to 3am until the end of August.
(36 St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh, EH2 2AA)
Always a popular and vibrant focal point of the Fringe, St Andrew’s Square will once again be taken over by the Spiegeltent (venue 87).
Just across the tram tracks, however, in the ornately-gated gardens of Dundas House (offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland), revellers can escape to a little slice of Speyside as specialist agency The Drink Cabinet will be creating a pop-up event for Caorunn Gin, showcasing the work of emerging Scottish artists alongside signature gin serves and freshly-made Scottish street food.
The garden will be open every day from noon to 9pm until the 28 th of August.
( 9 Advocates Close, EH1 1ND)
The Military Tattoo – another mainstay of the Festival – takes place at Edinburgh Castle throughout most of August. Just a quick half-step march down the cobbles, a cacophony of pipe, drum and firework still ringing in your ears, you will find yourself at Advocate’s Close where The Devil’s Advocate is nestled.
Its rather industrial interior belies an impressive (if somewhat challenging) cocktail range priced at around £8 to £10 and an enviable selection of over 200 whiskies.
(87-89 Rose Street North Lane, EH2 3DX)
This bar is so new it doesn’t even have a proper website yet. What was once the rather boisterous International Vodka & Beer Bar has been ousted by, at first glance, a private investigation agency. This tiny site just off Rose Street, set up by Messrs. Ross Bryant & Jason Cormack, is the very epitome of a speakeasy bar; the comfortable seating, vintage décor, unobtrusive music and hushed atmosphere make for a relaxed and intimate experience. The drinks list will be hot off the typewriter in early August, consisting of unique twists on bygone classics and priced around the £7.50 to £9 mark.
Entry is by buzzer at the main door and may be somewhat restricted due to the bar’s small size.
1 Festival Square, EH3 9SR
Should you find yourself west of the Castle and in requirement of a juniper-based fix, Pickering’s have taken over the gin terrace of the Sheraton’s One Square bar located on the aptly-named Festival Square. Offering a range of exclusive £8 ‘peacocktails’ (a doffed cap to the magnificent plumage of Pickering’s spirit animal) and a selection of taster plates in addition to One Square’s extensive menu, the terrace is partially covered and heated – ensuring that most of the eventualities of a Scottish summer can be withstood.
You can savour the uniqueness of having your signature Martini stirred by a repurposed gramophone record player, known alliteratively as the Marvellously Mixed Musical Martini Maker and, if you’re still enjoying the delights of the capital as September creeps in, Marcus Pickering will be visiting the terrace on Friday 2 nd to tell the unconventional story behind Pickering’s gin. The terrace is open from 9am to midnight until the end of September.
3a Queensferry Street Lane, EH2 4PF
One of the major concerns at Festival time is how to squeeze as many shows, exhibits and performances as possible into the paltry three-week time period so how would anyone want to waste time with all that tedious standing around waiting for a cocktail to be MADE, right?
Salvation, then, may be found at Brew Lab West End – between Thursday and Sunday, at least – where bespoke pre-mixed cocktail company Milk Money will be muscling in on all the caffeine shenanigans with an ever-changing roster of bottled cocktails (Bacardi Breezers these are most definitely not!) alongside craft beers, baby bottles of Prosecco and a nice range of nibbly things – not least their frankly addiction-inducing maple-candied bacon in six (six!) flavours.
Milk Money will be at Brew Lab West End from late afternoon until midnight, Thursday to Sunday throughout August.
• For features like this and more information on the Edinburgh cocktail scene follow Iain on Twitter @mixolosopher