Edinburgh has just hosted the world’s most celebrated cocktail event – Tales of the Cocktail. This was an opportunity for industry professionals to connect and learn from one another, and for cocktail lovers to indulge themselves in our beautiful city which graced us with some fine weather.
You may be surprised to know that Edinburgh punches well above its weight on the international cocktail scene and is up there with New York and Paris in terms of its pioneering status.
Of course the cocktail was developed in New Orleans when Antoine Peychaud, a pharmacist, would serve his bitters in an egg cup known as a ko-k-tay. Peychaud’s Bitters was the definitive ingredient in the world’s first cocktail, the Sazerac, and the name ‘cocktail’ was developed from that egg cup.
The Sazerac was a blend of Peychaud’s Bitters, Sazerac Rye Whiskey and Herbsaint. It has a distinctly medicinal flavour, which harks back to its pharmaceutical routes. Incidentally, the new to the market Peychaud’s Aperitivo is very easy to drink and quite moreish.
The Prohibition era gave rise to the Speakeasy culture with secretive illegal bars popping up across America, some requiring a password to gain entry. A raft of new cocktails were born including the infamous Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane in New Orleans, the Roffignac developed by Lord Roffignac who served as Mayor of New Orleans, the Vieux Carré named after the Vieux Carrè area of New Orleans and the Ramos Gin Fizz.
The end of the Prohibition era allowed cocktails to become mainstream, Hotel Monteleone created their now infamous revolving carousel bar in 1949. The carousel bar completes a full rotation every 15 mins and cocktail lovers can still enjoy a Vieux Carrè there today. You can see images of the Carousel Bar through the years here.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and Edinburgh saw the opening of its first bar serving expertly made cocktails. The Blue Bar was established in 1997 and was the first establishment to take mixology seriously. This was followed by Tonic in 1999 which remains in business today, still as a cocktail bar.
TGI Friday’s was a surprising influence at around the same that helped develop new talent and of course flaring skills.
Oloroso, Ricks and others teamed great food with cocktails, and interest from the discerning diners of Edinburgh grew.
Competitions in Edinburgh became commonplace and a bar league was established where bartending teams would pit themselves against each to see who could develop the best cocktail.
Bramble became widely recognised across the UK as a well respected cocktail bar, and the likes of The Bon Vivant joined the growing number of bars putting cocktails at the forefront of their business.
Panda & Sons has even provided Edinburgh with its very own speakeasy. The barber shop frontage gives away no secret to what lies beyond the barber seat and the faux bookcase.
The Voyage of Buck, one of Edinburgh’s newest bars takes the idea of a concept bar and runs with it as their cocktail menu takes you on a journey via the travels of the fictitious ‘William ‘Buck’ Clarence’.
The cocktail scene here in Edinburgh continues to thrive and develop with many influential business owners taking up the mantel and driving innovation. The Tales of the Cocktail event will only serve to highlight further our status as one of Europe’s leading cocktail cities, ensuring a bright future for our cocktail culture. Discover more about Edinburgh bars here.