There’s nothing quite like the sun shining on a crisp, cold afternoon. Walking in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson, I explored the bright, airy streets of his home, admiring the dazzling red door to his house and the famous street lamp at its entrance.
After a long walk it was time to sample the well known boutique cocktail bars of the area – New Town. I crossed the vibrant greenery of Queen Street Gardens and headed for Thistle Street. The name alone was delightfully Scottish and the narrow passageway dwarfed by the towering buildings felt very continental, but also reflected the style of the old Edinburgh streets where many people lived above one another in buildings so high the daylight was concealed from ground level.
I reached my first stop: The Bon Vivant (55 Thistle Street)
The interior was dark and cozy, vintage posters enhanced the causal yet chic atmosphere and the stunning wooden bar served as an alluring centre point, drawing your eye towards their huge variety of tipples. I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone, with ingredients typical of Scottish mixology trends such as ginger jam and bitters… I went for the Flor De Muerto.
A cool, refreshing, tequila based cocktail with a surprising hint of thyme. Fantastically sophisticated; honey, lemon juice, peach bitters and soda finish the composition of the drink. Bitters feature in a lot of Edinburgh’s cocktails, echoing the older methods of cocktail making which are observing a comeback. This is not a sweet drink but it has a fruity kick that invites you to drink slowly and savour the complexity of the flavours.
My next destination was a complete guilty pleasure, the cocktails were more akin to the traditional cheap and cheerful drinks we expect to find on offer in pubs and clubs rather than a luxurious bar. But, I am no cocktail snob, and the themed interior made for a really enjoyable experience.
Jekyll & Hyde (112 Hanover Street) This is one of four pubs in the Eerie Pub Co group. The concept is described as a “ghoulishly gothic theme” and it absolutely delivers. It offers a range of cocktails amusingly named after the 7 Deadly Sins and 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, of which Death is certainly the strongest! Full to the brim with rum, grenadine and fruit juices it is a tasty treat and great value if you want to get very drunk! Lust is a gorgeous drink similar to a cosmo, Sloth is the equivalent of a screaming orgasm cocktail, Gluttony is a sex on the beach and Pride is similar to a blue lagoon. These will set you back £4 each and if you can manage all 7 Deadly Sins there’s a free t-shirt thrown in!
Find an eerie pub near you: http://www.eeriepubs.co.uk
Bramble Bar (16A Queen Street – underneath the alterations shop) Do not miss this hidden gem! I couldn’t find this place on my first attempt, but as I crept down the steps and into the bar I felt like I’d stumbled on an undiscovered wonder!
Thriving beneath Queen Street; white brick walls, dim lights, large benches and shabby chic furniture create a cool, secretive vibe like you are part of an exclusive, trendy, boho club. There is a copper tap rising out of the bar which keeps you topped up with water as you sample the delights on offer.
The bar staff are wonderful hosts, talking you through every aspect of your drink and detailed descriptions of the ingredients. I’d advise getting down early (it opens at 5pm) to take advantage of their extensive knowledge. I was lucky enough to be served by Jon, who made the UK final for Bombay Sapphire’s World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition – an astounding accolade.
Butter-Scotch: Not what it seems! The name is derived from the use of butter to adapt the Monkey Shoulder malt scotch whiskey (I still don’t quite understand how it works) to create a smooth texture and flavour. This ingredient is prominent in many cocktails in Edinburgh and despite being excellently crafted, a bit too strong for my tastes. Luckily the kind bartender watered it down with more orange juice for me. More Scottish features of the drink were the ginger jam and widely used bitters. The flavour was sweet but with a strong accompanying taste of whiskey. Sipped slowly you can appreciate the craft of the drink and the creative mind behind the recipe.
The Espresso Experiment: Another drink that turns your perceptions on their head. A real accomplishment in mixology – a variety of flavours such as vanilla, caramel, cream and sugar are distilled and captured, then ingeniously mixed with Bacardi. This is also done with extracts from coffee beans and syrups to create a blend that smells and tastes exactly like a strong coffee, with subtle notes of all the other flavours. What is most mind blowing, however, is that it’s completely clear! A must try for coffee lovers.