Five of Scotland's Best Cocktail Bars
Updated: May 11
Sophie Hutton: Tour Research, Development and Admin Assistant
One fifth of individuals who drink are now opting for unique, aesthetically pleasing spirit-based cocktails in place of beer and wine, according to a survey commissioned by Gordons, Baileys and Tanqueray. The most ordered cocktails of twenty twenty-one include ‘Old Fashioned’, ‘Negroni’, ‘Espresso Martini’, ‘Aperol Spritz’ and the ‘Mojito’.
In 1806, the Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, New York defined the cocktail as ‘a stimulating liquor composed of any kind of sugar, water and bitters, vulgarly called a bittered sling’. Curiously, the mass consumption of these drinks coincided with the transportation of a staple ingredient: ice. Frederic Tudor, who developed a method of exporting ice from cooler to warmer climates (including the United States), spared New York's residents from tasting their cocktails at room temperature!
Prohibition suspended the consumption of cocktails, however, following the first World War and globalisation, exposure to Polynesian culture introduced kitsch rums and a form of escapism to drinking establishments, who began serving a mixture of rum, house made syrups and fresh juices in tiki tumblers eg. a ‘Piña Colada’, a significant contrast from a classic ‘Negroni’.
In the 1990’s, following a lull in cocktail consumption (as recreational drug use increased), several bartenders, including Dale Degroff, at New York’s Rainbow Room initiated a revival in cocktail culture, restoring the historical values, quality standards and scrutinised spirit measurements to the discipline.
Blink and you’ll miss Nightcap, Edinburgh’s discreet, lower level entrance on York Street. Originally opened as a temporary pop-up in 2016, Nightcap’s cosy, intimate and dimly light interior is now a permanent fixture in Edinburgh and provides a masterclass in complex, unique cocktails including the ‘Hanami Highball’ (Roku gin, cherry blossom cordial, bergamot and soda) and the ‘Seaside Gibson’ (Edinburgh seaside gin, sesame vermouth, pickled onion and nori tincture).
Panda & Sons was established in 2013 and much like Nightcap, presents as inconspicuous due to its exterior mimicking a ‘barber shop’ on Queen Street. This quirkiness is reflected in the cocktail menu, which can only be described as a combination of expert mixology (using unfamiliar and unique ingredients) and pageantry - take the ‘RuPaul’ (dewar’s 12, rosé wine, anise and freeze dried strawberry) or the ‘Bakehouse Cobbler’ (Dundee cake orgeat, Havana Club Edición B, Sweetdram Escubac, Orange and Angostura Bitters) as examples of this! In 2018, Panda & Sons was named the sixty first best bar in the world, in ‘The World’s One Hundred Best Bars’, as one of only five entries from the United Kingdom.
Bo & Birdy is a modern brasserie, tucked away inside The Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, in Blythswood Square, Glasgow. It’s known for its ‘Bo and Birdy Signature’, an iridescent pink drink with a peacock feather garnish. Thanks to Joseph Boyle, bartender at Bo & Birdy, we know that the drink contains Botanist gin, Edinburgh rhubarb and ginger gin liqueur, Byrrh Grand Quinquina vermouth, lemon juice, sugar syrup, pasteurised egg white and Peychaud’s bitters for the garnish.
The Spiritualist is self-described as ‘a far step away from anything ordinary...enticingly elegant with a touch of cool’...literally. The Spiritualist serves a classic cosmopolitan, poured into a hollow sphere of ice, complete with a mini hammer and a 'Bee Sting' (elderflower liqueur, lemon, honey, dry ice and bee pollen). Find The Spiritualist on Miller Street, in Merchant City Glasgow.
The Adamson, on South Street, is the namesake of photographer John Adamson, who once lived in that location in the 1800’s and took the first calotype portrait. In 2015, the Adamson Brasserie was extended to include a bar in the location of a postal sorting office. Adamson's accolades include ‘Cocktail Bar of The Year’ in 2019. Book in for a mixology masterclass or relax and enjoy a pre-made cocktail, whether that be the ‘Mumma Bear’ (Bombay Bramble, Pamplemousse Rose, rhubarb, apple and lime), the ‘Lucid Dream’ (Finlandia, St Germain, pineapple juice, vanilla and lime) or a 'Frosé' (beefeater pink, mirabeau rose, aperol, lemon, agave and strawberry).