Secret Scottish bar hidden inside a barber shop named as one of the best in world

A multi-award winning hidden Scottish bar is 'worth the price of a plane ticket' as it's named one of the best in the world.

Published 29th May 2024
Updated 29 th May 2024

A secret Scottish cocktail bar has been named as one of the best in the world by an international travel guide.

Panda & Sons, a speakeasy style bar on Queen Street in Edinburgh, has made the list of best bars in the world, according to US-based Food and Wine magazine.

Only 11 worldwide venues made it onto the list, and Panda & Sons was the only bar in the UK to feature.

The other bars to feature were: Benfiddich, a 17-seater bar Tokyo; Little Red Doors in Paris; Maybe Sammy, in Sydney; Alquimico in Cartagena; Himok in Oslo; Handshake Speakeasy in Mexico City; Atlas in Singapore; Sips in Barcelona; La Sala de Laura in Bogota and Plus: Baba Au Rum in Athens.

Panda & Sons was opened in 2013 by Iain McPherson and was one of the first secret, speakeasy style of bars in the city.

Panda & Sons was recognised for its latest cocktail menu ‘Transcend’, which features sixteen cocktails arranged in four chapters exploring and highlighting a different ultra-low freezing technique known as switching.

secret scottish bar best in the world

Switching is a super-low-temperature technique that effectively removes the water from a spirit which can then be replaced by other liquids without over-diluting, adding extra flavour and texture.

It's this creativity and passion for flavour that has led to the bar, and McPherson, being awarded such accolades and making Panda & Sons a must-visit for cocktail fans.

In late 2023 McPherson joined us on our Scran podcast to chat about winning awards, his career to date and the fascinating work he's been doing around using freezing processes in cocktails, having gone to great lengths to study the science and craft behind it all.

Of the list, Food and Wine said: “The second annual edition of our Global Tastemakers survey proves that excellent drink making knows no borders. This year’s class of winners crisscrossed five continents, featuring major cities from Singapore to Sydney and Cartagena to Mexico City.

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“The bars that stood out to our network of food and travel experts embraced the weird and wonderful. As these results make clear, this year’s most exciting drink destinations are well worth the price of a plane ticket.”

Edinburgh cocktail bar best in world

Of Panda & Sons, the team at Wine and Travel wrote: "Entry instructions – find the barbershop run by a pair of well-coiffed pandas and slip into the back – at this Edinburgh speakeasy are slightly silly.

“These more mischievous elements complement a serious triumph of process, as Panda & Sons owner Iain McPherson is one of the world’s leading experts on freezing techniques. He’s responsible for inventing a method of cold infusion called ‘switching,’ in which water is removed from a spirit and replaced with something more flavourful.

“As such, classic cocktails have a technical touch, like an Appletini (olive oil-washed vodka, clarified apple, umeshu and Calvados) or the creamy colada with cocoa butter-washed rum.”

This accolade follows on from the bar being named in the top 50 in the world at the end of 2023.

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Panda & Sons was the only Scottish bar to place within the top 50 list - it came in at number 39 - and one of only six in the UK to feature.

Panda & Sons, Queen Street, Edinburgh, UK
Panda & Sons, Queen Street, Edinburgh, UK, EH2 4NF
Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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