For a relatively small city, Edinburgh boasts a remarkable number of outstanding cocktail bars, all within easy walking distance of each other. Its thriving cocktail scene is so strong and highly rated that the world’s foremost cocktail event, Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans, has chosen Edinburgh as a destination for its Tales on Tour event, which hits town (for the second year running) in April.
For cocktail connoisseurs seeking to explore the scene, there’s now an unofficial cocktail trail, which can be followed from Stockbridge on the north side of the city to the Royal Mile in the heart of the Old Town.
Below we’ve picked out five of the coolest cocktail bars to seek out – there are many more options to be found on the main streets, but these are the ones for the ultimate Edinburgh cocktail experience…
The Last Word Saloon
Start your cocktail journey in bohemian Stockbridge with a visit to the laidback Last Word Saloon. This cosy bar has a chilled neighborhood vibe, friendly staff and an inventive cocktail list featuring its signature serve, the Last Word Revisited, which includes Beefeater Gin, clarified Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur and lime oleo saccharum.
Its simple serves, such as the Quiquiriqui Matalan mescal with Chartreuse goop and Ting grapefruit soda, are also a great way to kick off the evening.
44 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5AL
Bryant & Mack Private Detectives
From Stockbridge, head up and westwards towards town. On a lane just off Rose Street, you’ll find one of the city’s most secretive cocktail spots, Bryant & Mack. Don’t be put off if the door is closed, step inside and you’ll discover a hidden gem of a speakeasy-style bar. With lovely low lighting and stylish décor, this intimate bar boasts a meticulously curated cocktail menu and an elegant experience. With table service and no standing room, this one’s a real treat for cocktail lovers.
Bryant & Mack, 89 Rose Street North Lane, Edinburgh, EH2 3DX
From Rose Street, it’s a short hop to Lucky Liquor, which is run by the team behind Edinburgh’s pioneering cocktail bar, Bramble. In contrast to the speakeasy vibe of Bryant & Mack, this bar has a brighter, altogether more contemporary look. What makes it unusual is its innovative rotating cocktail menu, which features only 13 spirits and 13 cocktails each quarter. The team is next-level creative and friendly too, while there’s always excellent music playing via their turntable and vinyl-only music policy.
Lucky Liquor 39A Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3NH
The Devil’s Advocate
After Lucky Liquor, you may want to pop in to nearby Bramble, which is just a block away, before heading south towards the Royal Mile. When you hit Cockburn Street, head up the steep steps of Advocate’s Close where halfway up you’ll spot The Devil’s Advocate. You may need a stiff drink after the climb and this is the perfect spot. Housed in an old Victorian pump house, this bar (and restaurant) is beautiful and the staff are renowned for their immaculate cocktails, knowledge and service.
The Devil’s Advocate, 9 Advocates Close, Edinburgh, EH1 1ND
The Permit Room
After midnight, it’s time to head back into town and make a beeline for The Permit Room on St Andrew Square, which is open until 3am. This basement bar beneath Dishoom restaurant is one of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets and a great stylish spot for an atmospheric late-night cocktail. The Bombay-themed décor is refined and elegant, while the extensive cocktail list features bespoke tipples with an Indian twist created especially for Edinburgh, such as the Marzban’s Fizz (smoked Chikoo – Indian pear – and Johnnie Walker Black Label, topped with a soda fizz). There’s also a great array of alcohol-free ‘copy tipples’, which look and taste exactly like cocktails.
The Permit Room, beneath Dishoom, 3A St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, EH2 2BD
Tim Harfield is a PR Manager, male model and freelance journalist based in Edinburgh.