Edinburgh boasts countless award-winning pubs and bars that range from traditional to eclectic to ultra modern. Melissa Fernie takes a look at some local favourites as well as a few off-the-beaten-track gems to give you a comprehensive guide to your next night out.
We’ll be updating this guide with new additions, so check back for more tips.
104 Hanover Street; 0131 225 6220, www.barsoba.co.uk
This Pan-Asian bar is a fairly recent addition to the Edinburgh scene, building on the success of its Glasgow offering. It boasts long wooden tables, graffitied walls and some of the best mixologists in the city. Moulded together with their exhilarating and moderately priced cocktails is an eclectic blend of the Far East with Indian, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese street food, which is set to the backdrop of music courtesy of the DJs of the moment on Wednesday through to Sunday nights. Located smack in the middle of town, this is a great pre-club option, and with a new featured cocktail created each month, you’ll never be short on choice.
If you’re thirsty: Apple and Ginger Mojitos
If you’re adventurous: The Nuclear Daiquiri (maximum two per person) – once you’ve had one you’ll understand the need for the limit!
16a Queen Street; 0131 226 6343, www.bramblebar.co.uk
A firm favourite with locals, this underground, stone-walled bar is not just appreciated by us. Bramble has been voted one of the top 50 bars in the world two years running and it only takes one visit to learn why. They believe in the art of making drinks, but they try not to take themselves too seriously, with forgotten classics as well as original creations on the menu. The drinks are complemented by the soul and R’n’B music that seeps around the corners of the white washed nooks and crannies. Tucked away from sight but still very central, Bramble is a great place to both relax of a weekday evening and party the night away at the weekend.
If you’re thirsty: La Roux
If you’re adventurous: Mint Choc Flip
The Brass Monkey
14 Drummond Street; 0131 556 1961
Easily one of the finest bars in the city, Brass Monkey is still one of its best kept secrets after all these years. The eclectic bar has a back room filled with mattresses and – naturally – monkey paintings, with a big screen to view films every day at 3pm, and walls lined with iconic movie posters. With a gas fire, cosy corners and guest ales on tap, the Brass Monkey is an Edinburgh gem where you can spend the afternoon pondering life’s big questions over a pint. They’ve now opened a new branch down at 362 Leith Walk, which has also become a popular choice in the area.
If you’re thirsty: Any of the ales on draught
If you’re adventurous: A ‘manwich’ and a fight to choose the film
The Jazz Bar
1a Chambers Street; 0131 220 4298, www.thejazzbar.co.uk
Forget modern, fancy and eclectic surroundings, The Jazz Bar is all about the vibe. This basement bar appeals to everyone with its unique mix of genre-stretching music. Each night the bar plays host to jazz, blues, funk and soul musicians who give it everything they’ve got. Once described as having a New York atmosphere right here in Edinburgh, there is always a wide demographic in amongst the crowd, all seeking a good night out. The Jazz Bar constantly has a creative and vibrant buzz that fills the cramped room and will leave you swaying around your pint.
If you’re thirsty: One of the many bottled beers on offer
If you’re adventurous: Imported Polish Jazz Vodka that comes in a trumpet-shaped bottle
105 Lauriston Place; 0131 629 5434
For beer-lovers, this is the place to go. Showcasing an impressive array of both common and unusual beers from around the world, Brauhaus is your one-stop shop for high quality beer at a competitive price. Somewhere between a traditional pub and a contemporary watering hole, Brauhaus is probably the size of your living room and has old-fashioned beer stickers serving as wallpaper, which all adds to its charm. A brilliant place to take anyone who is visiting the city and great for a catch up with friends.
If you’re thirsty: Erdinger Weissbier
If you’re adventurous: Mongozo Banana
52 West Port; 0131 228 4543, www.dragonflycocktailbar.com
Dragonfly is a unique and award-winning cocktail bar in the heart of the Old Town. Rocking an almost Victorian feel with a Japanese vibe, the bar sits on two levels with hardwood floors and an extensive cocktail list. Without being able to provide anything to soak up the alcohol, the owners have cleverly teamed up with the nearby Mamma’s Pizzeria to create a number of pizzas that can be delivered to your table. With its reasonable prices and great atmosphere, the Dragonfly is a perfect place to take a date or start a night on the town.
If you’re thirsty: Mount Gay Ginger and Lime
If you’re adventurous: A Triple H
229 Leith Walk; 0131 553 5900, www.bodabar.com
A cosy, friendly bar with a subtle Swedish twist (it’s owned by the couple behind sister pubs Joseph Pearce, Victoria, Hemma and Sofi’s), Boda hosts regulars, students and tourists. The undeniably Scandinavian décor is welcoming with small armchairs at round white tables with candles. With a backroom to hire out for book clubs, knitting clubs, board games or just a catch up, Boda Bar has become a firm favourite in Leith. And it’s not as kitsch as you think: they regularly host music nights like soul, funk and R’n’B evenings. A chilled bar to have a laid back drink in.
If you’re thirsty: Black Isle Blonde on tap
If you’re adventurous: Worthers Original shots
The Hanging Bat
133 Lothian Road; 0131 229 0759, www.thehangingbat.com
Since it opened its doors in 2012 on Lothian Road, The Hanging Bat has become a haven for a growing number of craft beer enthusiasts. With six kegs, 14 keg lines and 120 draught lines there is plenty to choose from. There may be a limited wines and spirits list but the quality of the beer speaks for itself. They pride themselves on only buying locally sourced products from independent UK companies, and some of their beer is brewed in their own pilot brewery. The décor is rustic but modern with exposed wood and red leather couches and to complement their beer they have BBQ style food cooked on their own smoker and dog griddle.
If you’re thirsty: Thornbridge Raven
If you’re adventurous: Birrifico Lambrate Ghisa
The Last Word
44 St Stephen Street; 0131 225 9009, www.lastwordsaloon.com
Hidden beneath the streets of Stockbridge and from the same people behind Bramble, this bar is what you would imagine an Old West, prohibition den to look like. With its dark candlelit atmosphere, comfy sheep-skin chairs and dark green walls, there is no denying the ambience whilst you sip on a newly created cocktail from the Saloon’s own lab with ice crushed by a chainsaw (allegedly!). The bar staff are obviously passionate about their work so help is always on offer when making the decision on your drink. With an extensive list of cocktails, beers, whiskys and wines, you will be spoilt for choice.
If you’re thirsty: Maker’s Mark and Homemade Sangrita
If you’re adventurous: The Six-Cylinder Cocktail Steel Aged
22-26 South Clerk Street, 0131 662 8926, www.thesouthern.co.uk
From the people that brought you Holyrood 9A and The Red Squirrel, The Southern has an excellent and rotating selection of both common and eclectic draft beers and ales as well as a good selection of wines and cocktails. The Southern – which was once a biker bar where Nirvana played in 1991 – successfully combines the feel of a traditional cosy pub and a modern bar, which means they have a wide demographic from regulars to students. To wash down one of their wide range of draft beers, they offer mouth-watering burgers with a choice of sides (always go for the sweet potato fries!). The Southern is a great place to go with large groups for a night out as they have the space to accommodate, but the tight nooks and corners means you could also go for a quiet drink for two.
If you’re thirsty: Williams IPA
If you’re adventurous: One of their many rotational beers
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