Edinburgh City Guide – Cocktail Bars

Edinburgh is a great city if you like history, being able to walk nigh everywhere (when it’s not raining!) and have a great time eating, drinking and generally living the life of a lush bon vivant. 

It’s perfect as a weekend city break, and especially if you stay somewhere central/west end area.  A rather early start meant an arrival into Edinburgh for 8.30AM and after grabbing the Airlink from the airport to the city centre it was time for a walkabout. 

The first thing that struck me is the obvious landmark of Edinburgh Castle which dominates the skyline.  That combined with a grid street system in the centre meant that I didn’t get lost.  For me a quick stroll along Princes St (the main high street), then along a side street meant I was quickly at my destination, Rick’s. That’s correct I was at a cocktail bar by 9.30AM, luckily it’s also a restaurant and a boutique hotel. With only 10 rooms, a great bar and a restaurant it was a good base to explore from. 

After coffee and a glance at a map it was clear that I had landed on my feet. This hotel was  in the middle of the area I wanted to visit, it meant that some of the best bars of Edinburgh were minutes away. 

Below is the roundup of bars I managed to pay a visit to, let me know if you have thoughts on any of them, or places that I should go to next time

Bon Vivant

55 Thistle St
Down a side street you can find a small darkened bar that has a short list of drinks, but rather good drinks they are. With lighting from candles around the room it can be rather atmospheric. If you want a table in the bar then you might want to get here early, but they also have a larger area for food. All in all good food and drinks are guaranteed.


55A Frederick St
A compact bar area, though with plenty of bar stools, leads into a larger dining space. Always busy during the visit, and a pleasant place to spend time with bartenders who like to make a great drink. Many Corpse Reviver #2s were drunk here. 

The Raconteur

50 Dean St
Another bar out of town in what was an old pub, certainly busy on a Friday night and a taxi is well advised if it’s raining! Whilst the venue still has the pub toilets that could be much improved the drinks on offer are at the top of the Edinburgh cocktail scene. Quite simply if you are going to Edinburgh and you are only going to one or two bars then try and head here. 


34A North Castle St
A venue I managed to only visit when a cocktail competition was on, appeared to be a small cosy bar but may have been mistaken. Good things were heard of it, but can’t comment until the next visit. 

99 Hanover St

A fun bar, but unfortunately nothing too special when Bramble is just around the corner. That said if you want somewhere to chill with friends then all is good. They also have a dedicated eating area towards the back, and gorgeous high ceilings. 


16A Queens St
A basement bar on the corner of the street has two modes. Chilled out daytime and early eve, and then kicking into full on busy with a party vibe. The DJ might be in control of the music, but the bar staff still turn out great drinks. Also if you are a drink geek enquire about their bottled Affinity cocktail. 


15 Charlotte Lane
A venue that screams modern design, whilst it’s not a bar to sit at and talk shop with the bartender you will find great drinks on their new menu. A earl grey martini was well worth the walk to, as it’s slightly further from the main west end than the other bars. 


125 George St
The upmarket sister of Rick’s is a great sunshine trap in the early afternoon when Edinburgh has those rare summer moments. A comprehensive drinks menu is on offer, with a spacious interior. Like Rick’s it’s also a hotel. Certainly a glitzy bar, but service at times can be slow. 



34-41 Broughton St
Another fun looking bar, with teenage mutant turtles on the TV. Though having a page of cocktails dedicated to ladies might not have been the best, nor a bartender who wasn’t familiar with the drink ordered off the menu. Nonetheless this is a place to enjoy yourself and whilst the drinks may be better elsewhere, you’ll still have fun here. 


  1. Andrew says:

    Great and really useful list, many thanks for the research (like you needed coercion!). Might be heading up there in a month or two so very useful.

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