The Best Bars in Edinburgh
Dry January is officially over! While I’m proud I managed to stay sober for the whole month, I’ll admit I’ve missed being able to drink. So, to celebrate the end of my drinking hiatus, I wanted to share some of the best bars I’ve discovered in Edinburgh – where I’ll no doubt be spending most of this month…
Named after Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, you can find the Moriarty bar on Lothian Road. Inside, you’ll be greeted by décor reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale, with books and paintings on the walls, candles on the tables and lanterns draped from the ceiling. The illusion is only shattered by two flat screen televisions at either end of the bar… Small but inviting, Moriarty is a good place to start your night in or go to for a couple of quiet drinks. It’s also a pretty decent place for a first date – just don’t do what I did and take so many dates there, the barman comments on it.
Nestled down Cowgate, look for the building that says ‘NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST’ and you’ll find Pilgrim. Living up to its pretentious sentiment, the bar is composed of old suitcases and the majority of the seats are uncomfortable old cinema chairs. There’s also couches made out of denim, which get snapped up quickly for that exact reason. A popular student haunt, Pilgrim is a good place to head to if you’re not quite up for a club, but want the music. While the shine may have worn off slightly for me, I’d still recommend checking out Pilgrim at least once if you’re in town.
I tell pretty much everyone about this place because I’ve never been to anywhere quite like it. Hoot the Redeemer is well-hidden on Hanover Street – hunt for the red sign and lantern outside. Downstairs, you’ll meet the fortune teller who gives you a few words of wisdom before you enter the bar. What makes Hoot special is the gimmicks it offers – you can get alcoholic slushies and ice cream, as well as try your luck at the cocktail claw machine. Once you’ve caught two ingredients, the bar staff will make you an impromptu cocktail with them. They’ve also wallpapered the bathroom walls with pages from Fifty Shades of Grey, which could’ve been better used as toilet paper in my opinion…
Stramash has become my go-to place after all the bars shut at 1am because it’s open to 3am every single night… and 5am during the festival and festive season. Also found down Cowgate, the converted church has a decidedly gothic feel, which I love. Inside, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a castle – spread over two floors, there’s plenty of nooks and crannies to get lost in. The best (and occasionally worst) thing about Stramash is it’s a live music venue. There’s a string of bands on every night, which is a great alternative if you’re not a fan of clubs.
Treacle is one of my go-to cocktail bars. From alcoholic frappuccinos to blazing Tiki concoctions, there’s not much you won’t find here. The staff are also happy to make drinks that aren’t on the menu if you fancy a fruity Piña Colada or classic White Russian. Based on Broughton Street, it’s a cosy place that benefits from being slightly off the beaten track. It’s also dog friendly, so I’ve met a few adorable puppies in here! The only downside is it can get a little loud and busy at the weekend, so it’s not a place to go to for a quiet chat. But, who wants a heart-to-heart on a Saturday night, anyway?
5) Panda & Sons
Brought to you by the same brains behind Hoot the Redeemer, you have to visit Panda & Sons at least once if you’re in Edinburgh. Disguised as a vintage Barbershop on Queen Street, it’s a traditional Speakeasy that takes you back in time the moment you step through the (bookcase) door. Panda & Sons is popular, pricey and let’s be honest, pretentious as hell – but, there is nowhere like it and that’s the appeal. If you want something truly bizarre, try the Birdcage Cocktail…
Another one of my favourite places in Cowgate is OX184. Home to a wood fired grill, this place always smells amazing, as they serve food until the early hours of the morning (if you ever fancy a steak at 2am). They also have a great range of drinks on offer, from craft beer on tap to traditional spirits – just don’t ask them to make a White Russian because they don’t have a clue! This is another place that gets a bit manic at the weekend, so it’s best to head during the week if you can.
3) Red Squirrel
Also found on Lothian Road, Red Squirrel is a delightful bar. Whether you’re looking for a place for after-work drinks or somewhere to spend Saturday night, it’s a versatile bar that also serves food until 11pm. I’m particularly fond of their nachos… With a relaxed atmosphere and lovely staff, there’s not much to fault about Red Squirrel – it’s dog-friendly, too! They’ve just opened up a new Wetherspoons right beside it, which I urge you to walk right by and go here instead.
It’s fair to say I’m a regular at The Black Fox – I absolutely love this place! Based on Leith Walk, it’s a ten-minute walk from my flat and usually my first suggestion when someone asks me where I want to go. Their drinks menu is superb with plenty of cocktails to choose from, as well as craft beer and spirits. They also serve some pretty fantastic food, including my beloved peanut butter burger, The Charlie Brown. The staff are so friendly and always make me feel welcome, even going so far as to remember my order. If you find yourself down Leith, then please give The Black Fox a visit – trust me, you won’t regret it.
1) The Basement
It was a tough call for the coveted top spot on my list, but The Basement snatched the crown. Found on Broughton Street, this Mexican cantina has become Gus and I’s favourite place to frequent. Everything about The Basement is just right – the food, the drinks, the décor, the staff… While it’s popular, it never really gets unbearably busy as it’s not in the centre of town. This is also where I discovered Mezcal, which I’ve since told probably everyone I’ve spoken to about (it’s LETHAL Mexican tequila that’s both incredible and awful at the same time). The cherry on top of The Basement’s perfection is – yup, you guessed it – they let dogs in! I couldn’t ask for anything else from a bar. Go, now!