The ultimate gin lover’s guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is in a fizz about gin. Self professed luxury hunter and occasional lush Ross Fraser of luxury travel guide uncovers what’s happening right now in the Edinburgh gin scene…

Edinburgh gin guide
[Picture: Bethany Khan / Flickr / CC]

Whisky has for so long had its feet firmly under the table when it comes to the drink of choice in the capital. But times are changing and palates have become more complex; we now want craft over mass production, we want to feel an association with a drinks brand rather than it to simply be a vehicle to a boozy Saturday night out.

So it is no surprise to see that the number of small batch gin companies in Scotland has been flourishing in the last few years, as well as the number of bars in Edinburgh taking a more creative approach to serving ‘mothers ruin’.

Gin distilleries in Edinburgh (and beyond)

[Pickering’s Gin distillery in Summerhall – picture: Jane Barlow / TSPL]

Scotland, you might be surprised to know, is one of the biggest producers of gin in the world, thanks to goliath distillers calling the country home, but we also have a healthy number of small batch gin distilleries to our name too.

‘Small batch’ as the name suggests takes a far more gentle approach to the distilling process. The spirit is distilled with greater human input, so you can practically feel the love of the brand in each bottle.

We have some beautiful distilleries in Scotland taking this small batch process very seriously, from Rock Rose Gin up in Thurso to The Botanist in Islay and Caorunn Gin in Speyside.

Edinburgh, which was dry of gin-making for 150 years, has seen two distilleries opening in the last year – lucky for us!

Pickering’s Gin opened up this year and operates in Summerhall beside the Meadows. The gin is a traditional London Dry Gin made with five times filtered Edinburgh water and a secret blend of nine botanicals created from a family recipe that was written down in 1946 in Bombay. The gin is available now in many bars across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Edinburgh Gin meanwhile is distilled in the heart of the city, at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, nestled beneath the stairs at 1a Rutland Place. Edinburgh Gin is made using a blend of soft Scottish botanicals – juniper, coriander, citrus peel, angelica and orris root and finished off with heather and milk thistle at the final production stage. Simply delicious.

I know nothing about gin – where can I learn?

If you have no idea about gin but know you want to know more then One Square at the Sheraton Grand hotel and spa is a great bar to educate your mind and your palate. Sitting proudly across from the Usher Hall and with an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle, One Square offers not only a choice of 55 gins and four tonics, but the staff have the knowledge to teach you about this magical spirit too. Their gin-tasting experiences provide a deep dive into the spirit – you’ll finish off an expert and a bit tipsy too.

If you want to hear about gin from the horse’s mouth then Pickering’s Gin offer tours of the distillery where you can see how it is produced, bottled, and you finish up drinking it in the Royal Dick Bar where it is served on tap… yes on tap.

I love gin, but I want to drink it in a cocktail glass…

Edinburgh is one of those cities where a little bit of inside knowledge will get you far. If you know where to look, the city is a fantastic place for cocktail bars that go the extra mile…


Panda and Sons

Panda and Sons looks like an old American barbers on the outside, and is transformed into a prohibition-style bar on the inside – just head down the stairs and pull the secret book on the bookshelf to get in. The bar serves cocktails with a twist and a lot of creative genius. Try the Red Panda, which has Tanqueray Gin, Tomato Juice, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Cucumber, Lemon juice, Worcester Sauce, Tabasco and a Guinness float. If you are not all gin lovers in the party then I suggest one person tries the Bird Cage – a smoke-infused, whisky-based cocktail that is as beautiful as it is delicious.

Panda & Sons, 79 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 4NF, 0131 220 0443,

Heads & Tales

Heads and Tales is another gin bar, but not any old gin bar – it is in fact Edinburgh Gin by night. The distillery at 1a Rutland Place by day transforms into Heads & Tales after hours, and offers a plethora of gin-based cocktails to try. If you like your cocktails sweet, try an Otto Titsling made with Edinburgh Gin, vanilla, citrus & bramble or for something tangy a Savory Collins made with Hendrick’s Gin, cucumber and ginger.

Heads & Tales, 1a Rutland Place, Edinburgh EH1 2AE, 0131 656 2811,


Bramble has become an institution on the cocktail scene (and regularly features in lists of the world’s top 50 bars). It was one of the first bars I went to when I moved to Edinburgh and I have been going ever since. Below a tailor’s shop on Queen Street you would be forgiven for walking by, as it is not very well signposted, which is quite possibly deliberate. It is small and cosy with a touch of eccentricity – if too many people were in on the secret, it might just spoil the atmosphere.

The bar has quite a few gin-based cocktails, and their signature cocktail The Bramble is made with Hayman’s London Dry Gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and Creme de Mures. Or there’s the Angela’s Antidote made with Martin Millers Gin, Campari, homemade grapefruit cordial, freshly squeezed lemon juice and Peychaud’s Bitters.

Bramble, 16A Queen St, Edinburgh, EH2 1JE, 0131 226 6343,

I like my gin served with ice and a slice only thanks…

If cocktails sound too fussy and you like your gin and tonic with a slice of lemon and a lot of character, then there are two bars that I love going to.

lioness of leith
[The Lioness of Leith – picture: Neil Hanna / TSPL]

The Lioness of Leith

Maybe I am a tiny bit hipsterish at heart so this bar suits me, but The Lioness of Leith is just ‘cool’. Located on Duke Street at the end of Leith Walk, the bar serves good food, has good music, a great atmosphere and of course serves a great gin and tonic.

The Lioness of Leith, 21 -25 Duke Street, Edinburgh EH6 8HH, 0131 629 0580

The Devil’s Advocate

Tucked away on Advocate’s Close in the Old Town, The Devil’s Advocate is another relative newcomer, and a bar and restaurant that seems to beckon you in as you climb or descend the steps of the narrow close. Grab a booth in the downstairs area, order a G&T and relax….

The Devil’s Advocate, 9 Advocate’s Close, Edinburgh EH1 1ND, 0131 225 4465,

• Read more from Ross at

Like this? Try our Whisky Lover’s Guide to Edinburgh, or our Beer Lover’s Guide to Edinburgh

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