Where to drink during the Edinburgh Festival

Escape the main Fringe venues and head to the finest pubs and bars the Scottish capital has to offer

While alcohol is not medicinal, when it comes to the curative powers of comedy, it can help the medicine go down, and this symbiotic relationship is unavoidable at the Edinburgh Fringe. The world’s largest comedy festival, which runs throughout August, is drenched in drink.

As the Thinking Drinkers, we’ve taken this association a stage further by basing our upcoming Festival show on the history of drink, during which we will even offer audience members free drinks during the performance. And we’ll be encouraging them to dip into the Edinburgh bar scene once the show is over, where they’ll find some of the best paid-for drinks in the world.

We accept many festival-goers will find themselves waiting for a show in the Underbelly’s George Square garden or Pleasance Courtyard, faced with a selection of mainstream muck. But if you are at the Fringe, then do find the time to steal away from the main venues and seek out these top quality boozers…

Bramble, 16A Queen St, EH2 1JE, www.bramblebar.co.uk
Consistently ranked by bartenders as one of the best bars in the world, Bramble is an unassuming basement cocktail bar serving up peerless mixed drinks. The owners also have their own Scottish white rum, Sea Wolf (delicious in a daiquiri), and a super tasty Braemble Liqueur. For us this is the best place in town for a gin martini and we stop in at least once every year.

Drink: In our show we give out Adnams Gin (£27.25), a quality London Dry with a botanical burst of hibiscus to lift a martini. But if you make it to Bramble just ask for their recommendation, they’re the experts.

Bow Bar, 80 West Bow, EH1 2HH, www.thebowbar.co.uk
Granted it’s a tourist favourite, but this isn’t always a terrible thing, look at London’s Madame Tussauds – that place rocks… right, guys? Regardless, there are 300 whiskies on offer in the bar here and the environment is free of twee tartan and bagpipe din, paring everything back to the essentials: seats and shelves packed with quality whisky.

Drink: We’ll be sampling Talisker in the show, a standard-bearing single malt (£37.55). The 10 year old sums up Scotch in a single sip, a hint of smoke into some subtle sweetness and a suggestion of salt on the finish, it’s an Island and highland whisky rolled into one. With 300 whiskies to try here though, feel free to go through a few.

Downstairs at The Devil’s Advocate

The Oxford, 8 Young Street, EH2 4JB, www.oxfordbar.co.uk/
& The Cambridge, 20 Young St, EH2 4JB, www.thecambridgebar.co.uk

Something old and new with two neighbouring New Town pubs that nod to the rather massive English contingent in Edinburgh this month. The Cambridge has always been our stop at the end of the run, our useful post-match burger to chew on as we gaze at sport on a big screen, weary and wondering why the laughter has suddenly stopped. On the surface a standard, upmarket boozer, but standards are high across the board. A fine range of Scottish beers, stuff you can actually drink without being too navel-gazing beer nerd about the whole thing, all delivered with considerate customer service. The Oxford meanwhile, strips things back. A perennial favourite with wordsmiths; Ian Rankin has been spotted among the bar flies drawn to the lack of fripperies, such as taxidermy or other wacky decor touches, and the high-quality service with a smile. One of the best nae nonsense boozers in the city.

Drink: A pint and a whisky. Go to the Cambridge for a well-kept draught pint of something Scottish. Then take the digestive whisky in the Oxford and join in with the local bants around the bar.

Devil’s Advocate, 9 Advocate’s Close, EH1 1ND,  http://devilsadvocateedinburgh.co.uk
The leading liquor light in the Old Town. Upstairs the restaurant serves up dishes made up of seasonal Scottish produce, while downstairs you’ll discover a glorious cocktail offering and wide whisky collection. We can’t speak highly enough of it, and should also give a shout to the sister venue Bon Vivant in the New Town, another worthy contender.

Drink: Expand the horizons a bit here, the team can create quality from any spirit. We hand out the excellent Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva (£40.95) rum in our show and it appears in the Capercaillie cocktail, dangerously delicious and a far cry from a pint of flat festival lager.

Thinking Drinkers; A History of Alcohol will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 2-27 (not inc 16th). Audience members receive five free drinks each during the show. For tickets go here or for all 2017 dates go here.


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