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Drink List 5

The 12 best bars in Edinburgh

Fancy a G&T on a rooftop or a cocktail slushy supreme? Our round-up of the best bars in Edinburgh has it all

Arusa Qureshi
Written by
Kirstyn Smith
&
Arusa Qureshi
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Edinburgh may be known for its fine landmarks, points of historical wonder and overwhelming beauty but this city has much to offer food and drink enthusiasts too. With its many pubs and bars scattered all over the city, you could spend a day trying out all manner of recipes and concoctions and still won't have scratched the surface on this burgeoning scene.

Whether it's a fancy date-night hangout or a quirky dive bar you're after, all tastes and sensibilities are sure to be covered and you may even surprise yourself when it comes to your tipple of choice. Buckfast in a cocktail? A vending machine for ingredients? The choice of over 400 gins? Edinburgh has is all. Take our advice and head to one of these boozers and rest assured, you'll have a phenomenal night (or day!) out.

Drank somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDrinkList. You can also find out more about how Time Out makes recommendations and reviews bars here.

Best bars in Edinburgh

  • Restaurants

It may be right by the main University of Edinburgh campus, but 56 North pulls in all manner of clientele, from students to gin connoisseurs. This Southside bar specialises in gin, with three whole chapters dedicated to the spirit on the menu and over 400 on offer from around the world, with recommended mixers and garnishes attached to each. There's also an extensive cocktail, whisky and wine menu for anyone wanting something different and on a sunny day, you can head out to their front terrace or secret garden round the back to enjoy your drink of choice.

There are three storeys to this Grassmarket bar, including a rooftop terrace that’s perfect for summertime drinking. Born from a desire to move past hipsterism-for-the-sake-of-hipsterism, Cold Town House dedicates itself to pretence-free pizza, beer and prosecco. They also have their own lager and pale ale (OK, that sounds a little hipster), and you can watch the brewing process through floor-to-ceiling windows on the bar’s first floor.

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  • Bars and pubs

The Hanging Bat is a peculiarity on the Edinburgh bar scene in that it seems to have jettisoned most bar-like elements in case they get in the way of appreciating a good (read: craft) beer. Forgoing cocktail lists, dimly lit corners and even full-size pint glasses, it’s an altar to the creation and appreciation of the not-so-humble brewski.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars

This basement space in the centre of town is not your average high street spot, offering something a bit more quirky compared to the traditional boozer. Hoot the Redeemer is a funfair-themed dive bar, with boozy ice cream, slushies, arcade games and the opportunity to create your own concoction using flavours acquired from a claw machine. This will be music to your ears if you're indecisive in your drinks choices.

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  • Bars and pubs

The Blackbird attracts a hip-young-thing clientele who create a not-unpleasantly-busy atmosphere most nights of the week. Beers are typically either continental or craft, and the cocktail list is well curated too, with edgier titles like Fake News and Lychee Collins backing up the more traditional negroni, daiquiri and martini crowd.

  • Bars and pubs

An extended home-away-from-home for the local Leithers, young professionals and hipsters, this small-ish space is littered with quirky vintage-style armchairs and comfy lived-in sofas. A small bar with big ideas, Boda offers a drinks menu for all seasons, with decent beers, local gins and a good selection of wines and cocktails, plus events like vegan cocktail nights.

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Nauticus
Photograph: Till Britze Photography

7. Nauticus

Head down to the bottom of Leith until you get to Duke Street, and you'll come across a stylish bar with a maritime theme that boasts an extremely relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Nauticus pays homage to Leith's seafaring history in its decor but the main attraction is the bar's unique inspiring drinks menu, in which they champion Scottish liquor and local craft beer. 

  • Bars and pubs

Once upon a time the premises at Summerhall were the University of Edinburgh’s vet school but the animal doctors moved out in 2011 and a multi-purpose arts centre moved in. It has since established itself as an important creative hub and one of the main venues during the Edinburgh Fringe. Also on site, you’ll find a café, a craft brewery (Barney’s), a gin micro-distillery (Pickering’s) and a cosy bar that shares a name with the old vet school itself – the Royal Dick.

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  • Bars and pubs

With an interior that combines kitsch and camp, plus a lengthy cocktail list you’ll want to devour, Paradise Palms is the perfect spot for a relaxed drink, combined with unironic appreciation of the pineapple and flamingo-themed décor. The various Scottish twists on common mixes are certainly worth your time (how about a Buckfast Daiquiri?), and there’s also an American diner-inspired food menu by Lucky Pig. A record store and label are based on the premises too.

  • Bars and pubs

A 2016 debutante in the heart of the Old Town, Salt Horse is a dual-purpose beer shop and bar which places a focus on things artisan. The bar space is not the biggest, but the staff have managed to squeeze in quite a few small tables, lots of beer in bottles and cans, and a dozen rotating keg lines. Food-wise, the kitchen has been offering excellent burgers, wings and fries of late.

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Joseph Pearce’s
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs

Take one traditional nicotine-stained boozer much patronised by the middle-aged-gent-afternoon-drinking sector. Give it a fresh lick of paint, some quirky fittings and a Scandinavian-style bar menu. Provide a welcoming space for children during the day. Put seats outside but offer fleece blankets too – you are 56° north after all – then just watch the punters roll in, in, in. To Joseph Pearce we say: good luck getting them to leave. 

  • Bars and pubs

A kitschy American diner by day, the City Café becomes a pre-club party joint by night. Cocktail and beer pitchers are the main event, and on the weekends guest and resident DJs spin funk, hip hop and house tracks to get you in the mood for nearby dancefloors.

Hung over? Here’s where to nurse it...

  • Restaurants

Whether you’re up at the crack of dawn or opening your eyes as the clock strikes midday, Edinburgh’s full of places that can give you a hearty start to the day. You may be after a hair of the dog, when only a full fried breakfast and a Bloody Mary will do, but there’s an excellent array of do-good fruit and yoghurt-based breakfast spots here too. 

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