There's no shortage of great pubs and bars in Edinburgh that serve punters' needs just as well during the Festival as they do all year round. For that proper Fringe buzz though, you'll want a place that's only around as long as the performers. Here are the watering holes to visit for a full Festival experience.
If you want to feel the buzz of the Fringe (and more than likely spot dozens of semi-celebrity performers too), the erstwhile Edinburgh University student union is the place to be. And while their standard booze selection is unavoidably linked to certain Aussies who sponsor the local Comedy Award, there’ll also be the chance to sample wares from the thoroughly excellent Stewart Brewing and Thistly Cross Cider companies.
Also boasting connections with Stewart and Thistly is the Gilded Garden, an annexed territory that hugs the wall of Gilded Balloon’s Teviot venue. Again, the vibe is very much ‘mingle between shows, spot some comedians and hope it doesn’t rain’, but it’s got a couple of unique selling points – beer aficionados will want to sample both the Edinburgh Festival beer from Stewart Brewing and the venue’s own Gilded Gold Beer, a 30th anniversary brew from the very excellent Black Isle Brewery near Inverness.
Situated just opposite the Underbelly’s Cowgate complex (and, as far as we can tell, sharing no further affiliation with Underbelly but cheerfully nicking their cow theme and clientele), this oh-so-temporary pop-up features hay bales instead of furniture, outhouse-style toilets and regular live music from a variety of genres (though naturally, the space favours country-tinged acts). There’s also beaucoup branding from hipster bourbon-based bevvy Jeremiah Weed, but overt marketeering is something you’ll become accustomed to and become inured to as the Fest continues.
If you’re a card-carrying follower of the gin revolution, you’ll probably want to at least pop your head into this immersive Victoriana-style drinking opportunity. In addition to the standard gin cocktails available from the bar (all Hendricks, of course), this Fringetime-only venue features a series of rooms designed to toy with your senses as you sip, including various soundscape environments and an 'audio-gastrotorium laboratory', whatever the heck that is.
We’ve mentioned over on our list of Edinburgh’s best Festival eats that Summerhall provides a more leftfield and adventurous artistic alternative to the populist heart of the Fringe. We’ll simply add, then, that it’s also home to some of Edinburgh’s finest homemade booze, with Pickering’s Gin and Barney’s Beer both created on the premises. Pickering’s, in addition to being available on tap (on tap!) in Summerhall’s Royal Dick bar, will also have a dedicated cocktail bar on-site for the Fest; Barney, meanwhile, can also be spotted riding his customized beer bike round various non-Summerhall venues.