Edinburgh Festival Guide: Where to drink, New Town & Stockbridge
Enjoy wine paired with cheese at Smith & Gertrude, alcoholic ice-cream at Hoot the Redeemer and more cocktails than you can shake a mason jar at
This article is from 2016.
Cocktail lovers are spoilt for choice in Edinburgh's New Town, with salted caramel green tea vodka, pecan and amaretto sours and a hot whisky drink filtered through a Japanese coffee siphon just some of the delights in store.
16a Queen Street, EH2 1JE
Once found – which is a triumph in itself – Bramble goes on to push the boundaries of taste sensation with the likes of pancetta-washed Laird's Applejack and salted caramel green tea vodka. But don't be put off by these unusual ingredients. Everything has been tried and tested by the knowledgeable bartenders, earning its place on the carefully constructed 22-item list. These exquisite concoctions are just as whacky as Bramble's drinking vessels.
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The Guildford Arms
1–5 West Register Street, EH2 2AA
First up, it's beautiful and everything you've heard about the ceiling, the gleaming dark wood and the brass twinkling in the gentle Edinburgh light is true. Beer is a serious business here, with a continuously changing range of cask and craft ales and beers gracing the taps. There's always something new to discover – whether it's a new brewer or a single cask of something special. During the Fringe they host live jazz, blues and folk music.
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Hamilton's Bar and Kitchen
16–18 Hamilton Place, EH3 5AU
The long cocktail menu includes a banana and salted caramel Old Fashioned, a pecan and amaretto sour, and plenty seasonal concoctions in Mason jars with stripy straws. Weekend breakfast options include black pudding schnitzel with fried egg and caramelised apple or avocado with poached egg on sourdough bread with chorizo jam. Vegetarians and those on a gluten-free diet are well catered for, as are dog owners.
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99 Hanover Street
99 Hanover Street, EH2 1DJ
Don't let the deceptively plain exterior trick you. 99 Hanover's sultry interior is anything but boring. This quirky atmosphere comes to life with a daily DJ set. Drinks are outlined in the foolproof drinks report which unpretentiously displays the ingredients and dilution of each cocktail, alongside an illustration of its vessel. The cocktail list features drinks like Gin 'N' That containing mint, apricot preserve, lemon, crème de pêche and Tanqueray gin, and more unusual combinations which mix tequila and prosecco.
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Hoot the Redeemer
7 Hanover Street, EH2 2DL
A rarity in that it's a great bar just a few steps off Princes Street, it's entered via a dark stairway with a disguised doorway – in this case a dummy fortune teller in a glass case which assails the customer in a broad Scottish accent. The funfair theme continues inside: DJs play from a modified Punch & Judy stall and a vending machine sells alcoholic ice creams. The cocktails are intended to be fun and unpretentious – the retro-themed list includes Days of Thunder (vodka, Blue Curacao, raspberries and soda).
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7–8 Elm Row, EH7 4AA
As the craft beer revolution has gathered pace, so has this pub's inventiveness in helping you enjoy it. Not content with serving three or four cask beers and over half a dozen kegs, they now offer their draughts in two-pint cartons to take away, plus over 40 varieties of cans and bottles in a brightly lit chiller cabinet. There's an American diner feel to the menu with a wide range of burgers and smoked bratwurst hot dogs. Beef patties can be swapped out for chicken breast or veggie burger, though meat-avoiders may struggle to see past the mac and cheese, breaded and served in a brioche bun.
More info on Jeremiah's Taproom
23 Elm Row, EH7 4AA
Locals treat JP's like a second living room. Part of Edinburgh's mini-chain of Swedish bars, the menu bears a Scandi influence – expect smörgåsbords (so much more fun to say than 'sharing platters'), hasselback potatoes and, of course, meatballs served with lingonberry jam. The cocktail list is interesting, with aquavit making the odd appearance, most notably in the Hot Bjorn Borg which packs a chilli punch. Keep your eyes peeled for August's traditional crayfish parties.
More info on Joesph Pearce's
The Last Word Saloon
44 St Stephen Street, EH3 5AL
This excellent low-lit basement bar gets the balance just right between taking their cocktails very seriously, while keeping the atmosphere pretension-free. The Neko to Nezumi is an example of the bar's many wonderful whisky-based concoctions; a heady hot drink for two people, blending Ardmore single malt with vermouth and spices, filtered through a Japanese coffee siphon. Mezcal and tequila sit beautifully alongside strawberry jam, lime juice and rose liqueur in the Same But Different or there's fernet, pisco or poppy liqueur for sipping.
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The Lucky Liquor Co
39a Queen Street, EH2 3NH
Forget the superstition – as all adherents to the cult of the cocktail know, 13 is the luckiest number especially when it refers to the lucky #13 at Lucky Liquor. 13 cocktails on the list, 13 bottles on the back bar, and a new list every quarter. Keeping it tight means creative, classy choices. There's a compact wine list, the usual mixers plus a range of bottled beers and two on the tap. Some elements of the mix are homemade, like their liqueurs, many of which are available on off-sale to take home.
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49–51 London Street, EH3 6LX
Proudly self-identifying as a gastropub, the pub part takes place at street level and the craft beer box is very much ticked with Punk IPA and Schiehallion on tap and a good range of bottles. The spacious upstairs area is slightly more sedate in atmosphere and much more gastro. Starters and mains are supplemented by 'small things', an assortment of hard-to-resist snacks including smoked applewood and sun-blushed tomato arancini and 'bigger things', including steaks and an excellent handmade burger.
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49 Frederick Street, EH2 1EP
This cosy downstairs bolthole is simultaneously relaxed enough for a pint while watching the match yet smart enough for some serious cocktail action or a meal out. The copper-topped horseshoe bar casts a cheerful glow, while the book-lined walls, squashy leather sofas and mismatched chandeliers contribute to its quirky charm. There are half a dozen local cask ales along with a serious stash of malt whiskies and a cocktail list. Sharing platters include meat, seafood or a pie of the day with all the trimmings.
More info on Queen's Arms
The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street, EH2 2EQ
Tucked behind reception and lacking an on-street entrance, Scotch is easily overlooked. It's a comfortable, clubby space; with the obligatory stag's head and well-stuffed armchairs in tweeds and golden tones. Other drinks are available but really this place is mainly about the more than 500 malt whiskies which take up an entire wall of the room. Smart staff will happily deliver a digestible crash course in single malts for the novice or engage in detailed debates with whisky aficionados.
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Smith & Gertrude
26 Hamilton Place, EH3 5AU
New Stockbridge wine bar Smith & Gertrude combines the well-travelled owners biggest loves – wine, cheese, music and books. It's a homely, unpretentious space with a well-stocked bookcase for customer reading and a record player in the corner where customers are welcome to play music from a vinyl selection. The wine list is fat and chosen with discernment while the food choices extend only as far as cheese and charcuterie, but don't suffer for it. The flights are a particular selling point – either trios of wines on their own or paired with cheese.
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2 Picardy Place, EH1 3JT
This bright drinking den is perfect for people-watching, drinking and dancing – one of those places where you pop in for a quick one after work and end up holding court with a cocktail in each hand. There's a real community spirit in this bar – staff are friendly, dogs are welcome and there's decent food options (with a reduced menu served right through till midnight). At weekends the downstairs club really comes into its own. During the Fringe drop in for cabaret and comedy too.
More info on The Street