Headed to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and scouting out the city’s best watering holes? Scotland’s capital has a sparkling drinking scene, from cosy pubs to slick date night spots and not-so-secret speakeasies. Read on for the C&TH pick of the best bars in Edinburgh.
Best Bars in Edinburgh
Quirky Cowgate spot House of Gods is not so much a hotel and more a cocktail bar with rooms. While an overnight stay here is quite the experience (think Versailles-inspired suites and ‘Treat Me Like I’m Famous’ packages), it’s worth a visit for the bar alone. Titled Lilith’s Lounge – named after the fallen Queen of the Damned from mythology – the low-lit space is an Instagrammer’s dream, featuring pink Gucci Heron wallpaper, dark pink leather banquettes, leopard lamps and a huge glitterball. In-keeping with the theme, cocktails pay homage to celebrities’ stories from the legendary hotels they frequented. There’s a gin cocktail called ‘Rock N’ Rosé’, an ode to Slash, the guitarist from Guns N’ Roses, plus an Espresso Martini which – legend has it – was first created for Kate Moss in the 80s by London bartender Dick Bradsell.
233 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1JQ, houseofgodshotel.com
Eclectic is the word for Paradise Palms, a cocktail bar, event venue, restaurant and record shop stood next to Bristo Square. There’s flamingo-themed décor, vibrant wall hangings, neon lights and plants, plus an equally fun drinks menu featuring Scottish twists on traditional tipples, such as a Buckfast-infused daquiri. The LGBTQ-friendly spot promotes an inclusive culture, plus ensures green practices are in place throughout – from using renewable energy to banning single-use plastics. On weekdays enjoy American-inspired vegetarian dishes from Lucky Pig; on weekends dance the night away to DJs and drag shows.
41 Lothian St, Edinburgh EH1 1HB, theparadisepalms.com
The Bon Vivant
If stylish wine bar is your vibe, head to Stuart McCluskey’s The Bon Vivant for candlelit tipples and small plates. The New Town bar is a cosy, bistro-style spot with dark walls and leather armchairs, perfect for laid-back after-work drinks or date nights. Cocktails are a highlight here, particularly the whisky mixes – but watch out for the Sazerac: a dangerous mix of Bulleit Rye Whisky, cognac, absinthe and Peychaud’s & House Bitters. The champagne list is also impressive. Pick your poison, and pair with some very reasonably priced tapas-style bites: there’s haggis bonbons, fried brie with cranberry and cod croquettes, plus larger charcuterie boards.
55 Thistle St, Edinburgh EH2 1DY, bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk
Panda and Sons
Speakeasy bars have a tendency to feel gimmicky – but Panda and Sons does prohibition in style. Enter through a bookcase hidden behind a barbershop façade on Queen Street to find a theatrical bar filled with in-the-know drinkers. Despite its sneaky location, Panda and Sons was opened in 2013 (by Panda and his family, the story goes) as a place where everyone would feel welcome – and a friendly, pub-style atmosphere remains today. In-keeping with the bar’s theme, the drinks menu is presented as a story, featuring fun, creative cocktails like the Cocoa Colada, mixed with coconut cream, El Dorado, mango and lime.
79 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 4NF, pandaandsons.com
The Jolly Botanist
One for the gin lovers: Haymarket’s The Jolly Botanist is a cosy bar stocking over 60 different types of gin, with knowledgeable bar staff serving up creative cocktails. The menu includes a section dedicated to ‘Jolly Locals’ – spirits created in and around Edinburgh – featuring brands like Summerhall, the first exclusive gin distillery to be established in Edinburgh for over 150 years, plus Leith’s Electric Spirit. Décor is shabby-chic, reportedly inspired by French novelist Jules Verne, with large chandeliers and quirky furniture creating the feel of a Victorian living room.
256-260 Morrison St, Edinburgh EH3 8DT, thejollybotanist.co.uk
Speakeasy-style Bramble Bar may be hidden away down a set of stairs off Queen Street, but it’s no secret, having won a number of awards since it opened in 2006. Broody interiors makes Bramble a great spot for intimate dates – think low lighting, comfy leather armchairs and drinks menus bound inside the covers of books – but live DJs up the ante on weekends. Bartenders really know their stuff, whizzing up an impressive selection of cocktails, including the eponymous Bramble, alongside a wide range of gin and whisky varieties. Well worth a visit – just look out for the brass plaque bearing the bar’s name.
16A Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JE, bramblebar.co.uk
The Hanging Bat
Rustic spot The Hanging Bat is Edinburgh’s top destination for craft beer lovers. It has its own brewing area where ales are made in-house, plus a wide selection of beers from all over the world. Quirky features, such as beer taps carved into wooden bats, gives the bar a fun edge, with friendly bar staff on-hand to help advise on the best brews. Not a beer drinker? You haven’t been forgotten – there’s also a wide selection of wine, spirits and cocktails on offer.
133 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9AB, thehangingbat.com