Edinburgh Festival Guide: Where to drink, West End

This article is from 2016

Edinburgh Festival Guide: Where to drink, West End

The Beer Kitchen by Innis & Gunn

Enjoy White Russians in Lebowskis, G&Ts at The Jolly Botanist and a mug of haggis at Teuchters

Specialism is the name of the game in Edinburgh's West End drinking scene. There are pubs dedicated to the wonders of gin, traditional boozers and tiki bars stocking rums from across the world and pubs with ever-changing combinations of beer taps.

129 Fountainbridge, EH3 9QG
A few muffling rugs, some mismatched furniture, a ping-pong table upstairs and a decent range of craft beers, ciders and cocktails means this is a fun hangout whether there are a couple of dozen people in or the place is mobbed. Other selling points include child friendliness (there's a small baby play area at the back), a huge outdoor seating area on the canal, and strong food offerings.
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The Beer Kitchen by Innis & Gunn
81–83 Lothian Road, DD1 1PA
Conceived and run by Edinburgh's Innis & Gunn craft brewery, the Beer Kitchen is following in the footsteps of competitors like Brewdog in delivering a barfront focal point for the brand. While the Beer Kitchen offers beer flights and growlers to take away as well as offsales (there are 120 beers on their menu in total), the focus seems to be on the experience as a whole. Visitors will find a strong wine list, a modest range of classic cocktails and a quality food menu.
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The Blue Blazer
2 Spittal Street, EH3 9DX
Amongst the art students, tourists, office workers and ...dogs which make a regular appearance, the Blue Blazer's loyal elders will tell you that this place, over the years, has barely changed a bit. Their seven revolving cask ale taps keep those in search of a local brew happy, with the likes of Fyne Ales Superior IPA and Speyside's Bow Fiddle Blonde making regular appearances. What really makes this old-school boozer stand out from the rest is their selection of 80-plus rums from all corners of the world.
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Carters Tap
185 Morrison Street, EH3 8DZ
Six beer taps include three guests drawn exclusively from around Scotland – including Alechemy, Barney's, Pilot, Stewart's and Harviestoun – as well as a range of 15 all-Scottish gins and a decent selection of whiskies. Built over two cosy split-levels Carters is both classic and contemporary. By the bar there are swivelling stools, mosaic floor tiles and padded knee rests, while behind the brick is fashionably stripped-back and the beer and gin ranges in particular are well-stocked.
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52 Canoes
13 Melville Place, EH3 7PR
While gin is definitely having a moment around town, 52 resolutely paddles its own canoe straight down rum river. There's well over a hundred different brands and ages available, including Scotland's own Dark Matter. This love of all things rum translates into a mean cocktail too – their Mai Tai is a strong contender for the best in the city – while homemade ginger beer elevates a simple Dark and Stormy to almost cult status. The tiki bar styling, warm welcome and generous side order of kitsch make this a grand choice for a fun night out.
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The Hanging Bat
133 Lothian Road, EH3 9AB
Depending on your love for all things hoppy, the choice of 158 bottles and cans may be either overwhelming or exciting. However, the staff are more than happy to share their love and understanding, gladly offering tasters of the six cask beers or 14 keg lines. For those who can't settle on one, there's a flight (five 1/3 pints) on offer. The food is all about meat, with an American accent. That means pulled pork, ribs, or a choice of hotdogs, including the haggis-topped Greyfriars Bobby.
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Heads & Tales
1a Rutland Place, EH1 2AD
At Heads and Tales, G.I.Y stands for Gin It Yourself, a neat 'make your own cocktail' concept that happily over-rides any bafflement at the substantial range of gins atop the bar. During the day, the space is home to the Edinburgh Gin distillery. With evening-only opening, a no children policy, a hard to find entrance (keep your eyes peeled for a solitary, lit plaque above a staircase) and lovely, lovely gins, this feels like a forbidden, adult pleasure – in short, like you've died and gone to Gin Heaven.
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Indigo Yard
7 Charlotte Lane, EH2 4QZ
Indigo Yard has survived, and thrived, for 20 years, despite being hidden down a side alley in the West End. This is largely thanks to the attention it pays to its customers and their desires. Never ones to miss a trend, they are into craft beer in a big way, with 27 lines, including four rotating brews, to choose from. The atmosphere is welcoming and the menu offers classic dishes done well, from fish and chips or steak pie and mash to haddock risotto with a nicely poached egg.
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The Jolly Botanist
256–260 Morrison Street, EH3 8DT
The Jolly Botanist is an upmarket gin bar, with an impressive multi-page gin menu taking drinkers through over 50 brands of gin, with recipes torn from old books decorating the walls with suggestions for classic gin cocktails. Your average G&T is mostly T – so (rightly) the gin list also suggests a tonic to accompany your tipple as well as a recommended garnish to set the whole thing off: Caorunn with Fentimans tonic and a slice of apple, or Rock Rose with Fever-Tree and a sprig of rosemary being particularly successful pairings.
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18 Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ
Lebowskis is an Edinburgh must-visit, renowned for its relaxed, laid-back vibe, just the way the Dude himself would like it. As well as its famous long list of White Russians – most asked for is the Big Lebowski, a double whammy of vodka, coffee liqueur, milk and cream – there are beers, wines and a specially devised cocktail menu including the fruity Merry Berry and marmaladey Burnt Ma Toast. Best be hungry if you want to do justice to the mighty burgers.
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Red Squirrel
21 Lothian Road, EH1 2DJ
Start with the beers, because here it's all about the beers. With an ever-changing combination of local taps, The Red Squirrel pretty much guarantee you won't get bored with your pint. Expect to see a good mix of brewers like Pilot, Williams and Alechemy on the taps, with guest appearances from Belgium and the US too. Staff know their stuff, so if you're feeling frisky why not ask for them to sort you out with a taster flight? There's a compact menu, mostly featuring decent quality burgers, kids are welcome and service is slick.
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15 Charlotte Lane, EH2 4QZ
Sygn clearly ticks a lot of bar boxes: a good lunch deal; a compact but decent wine and beer list for relaxed midweek nights; DJs and an expertly crafted cocktail list aimed at a younger, pre-clubbing crowd at the weekend. Thanks to the obvious care and thought that's been put in behind the bar and in the kitchen, Sygn remains solid. Tuck into naughty but nice mac 'n' cheese bombs (fried cheesy pasta is never a bad thing) perhaps accompanied by one of the house special cocktails. A decent all-rounder.
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26 William Street, EH3 7NH
Tucked away in a quiet street, Teuchters is a pub with laid-back charm, its wooden floors and comfy sofas offering space to relax and chat. The bar offers no less than 100 malt whiskies, a range of craft beers and three guest beers a month plus a good selection of wines. The pub is known for the casual style of its menu – dig your spoon into a mug (yes, a mug) of Cullen skink or haggis neeps and tatties. Pies are cooked to order or you can share a platter of meats or Scottish cheeses.
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