The Devil’s Advocate, Edinburgh

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London is no longer the only place in the UK to try fine cocktails. The trend for culinary mixology is spreading and Edinburgh has its fair share of great bars. On my most recent trip to Scotland’s capital I visited The Devil’s Advocate with a group of friends and tried a range of their delicious drinks.  

In the centre of town but hidden away in the magical backstreets of Edinburgh, is this atmospheric bar and restaurant. Housed within an old Victorian pump house the venue has a historic feel to it, though the drinks are contemporary and innovative.

At night the bar was dimly lit and felt exciting, I noticed groups of friends were huddled around wooden tables trying strong drinks whilst catching up. The brilliant bartender came over and talked us through the menu of drinks which is split into categories depending on origin. Forgotten fairytale classics make an appearance, or you could try a ‘borrowed’ recipe from an inspiring bar somewhere around the world.

With a 200-strong whiskey shelf I decided to sample ‘Whiskey Rebellion’ a bourbon based cocktail mixed with Cocchi Americano, black tea maple syrup, absinthe and rosemary. It was a moody but fragranced drink with complex undernotes and well balanced taste. For something lighter try the long drink, ‘Once Upon a Thyme’ which includes sweet cherry and thyme jam, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, soda and cognac. The floral herb was well matched with the cherry and cognac and it was dangerously easy to drink. ‘Memento’ was also a tasty and smooth short drink, a delightful combination of Macallan Amber, Amaro CioCiaro, chamomile infused Aperol, Fernet Branca, Angostura and Whiskey mist.

If you are feeling peckish there is a relaxed mezzanine dining area and a food menu which showcases seasonal and Scottish ingredients. Though it is at night that this secretive cocktail bar comes to life.

More information and book a table here.

Dandelyan Bar, Mondrian Hotel

Some of London’s most highly regarded cocktail bars are found in the city’s luxury hotels, so I should not be surprised to hear that creative mixologist mastermind, Ryan Chetiyawardana (known as Mr Lyan) would be opening his second bar within a hotel. Known for pushing the boundaries of bartending, Ryan has previously worked behind the counter of some of the most pioneering cocktail joints; he opened his first bar (White Lyan) in Hoxton earlier this year, creating concoctions using no ice or fresh ingredients.

Dandelyan, set in the lavish new Mondrian Hotel on the river has smart hotel staff serving and pouring and sophisticated guests sitting on the luxury bar stools – the atmosphere is completely the opposite of the East London laid-back vibe I experienced in Hoxton. Eager to try Mr Lyan’s newest venture, a group of us swished in on a Monday evening ready to sample a selection of the top drinks, needless to say we had high expectations.

Here, ice and citrus essentials are allowed, but Mr Lyan still ensures the concept and recipes are adventurous and original. The beautifully designed floral cocktail menu splits the drinks into flavour groups: cereal, vegetal, mineral and floral. On the back page a diagram illustrates the main tastes of each drink and whether it is more suitable for daytime or nighttime drinking. We chose six to sip and share, along with a range of tasty bar snacks.

My favourites included the ‘Puffed Grains & Chocolate’ a long Scotch-based drink with a nutty sweet taste and the signature ‘Dandelyan Sour’ which is very easy to drink served in a pretty coupette glass: a botanical taste with a mix of gin, citrus flavours and aromatic garden bitters. For something very light and refreshing the popular ‘Southbank’ is a good bet, an elegant rum-based drink with a nice balance of grapefruit and honey. I also loved the ‘Monroe’, a strong vodka cocktail with lemon, wheat and passionfruit.

Despite the complex and intricate design of these cocktails, there is a drink to suit everyone, whether you are a cocktail fan or not. Mr Lyan is a mixologist magician and this new bar is sure to make Mondrian Hotel a drinking destination.

More information on Dandelyan Bar here.

Cocktails in Barcelona

Barcelona’s cocktail scene is varied and fun… underground speakeasies or rooftop bars, late night drinking and infectious music, the night life never ends. Though wine and sangria are the most familiar alcoholic beverages in Catalan’s capital, cocktails are increasingly popular, particularly the classic recipes. Though molecular and gastronomic cocktail artistry has not yet taken hold in this city there are still plenty of talented mixologists working their magic behind bars. As a cocktail snob I searched out the very best Barcelona has to offer… it is purely coincidence that my three top cocktail bars are all named after a famous concoction!

Dry Martini opened in 1978 and has remained the top place to drink fine cocktail in Barcelona. Owned and created by barman legend Javier de las Muelas this bar is a homage to the celebrated Dry Martini. Housed in a 1970s apartment block the venue is gloriously old-fashioned and luxurious inside. White jacketed men are cool and calm behind the bar, expertly pouring and mixing in a precise cheographed routine. A electronic board records the number of Dry Martini’s ordered, it reached 1 million quite recently and they celebrated in style. Earlier on in the evening civilised guests sit in the plush leather sofas enjoying a quiet, perfectly mixed drink, later once dinner has finished the speakeasy fills with locals and tourists in the know. We tried a variety of sublime drinks, fruity varieties and sour-sweet combinations, finishing with a strong, crystal-clear martini, topped of course with an green olive.

Gimlet is run by the Dry Martini company and offers a similar menu of twisted classics. The décor is simple and understated with a retro vibe, sitting at the bar I felt like I’d gone back in time. Suited and booted barmen serve immaculate drinks. We tried a traditional Negroni and a more adventurous concoction based on the class Negroni, both were delicious. Located in the lovely El Born area this cocktail bar has unbeatable drinks and an easy-going atmosphere.

Negroni is a small and discreet little bar which barely has a sign indicating its whereabouts, and inside there is no menu to choose from. The moody black interiors are accented with flashes of red and bottles of liquor glow behind the bar. Sit on the high stools and chat to the experienced mixologist about your preference of flavour and ingredients and minutes later your perfect drink will be placed in front of you. Our bartender exhibited creativity and flair in equal measure whipping up deliciously strong and unique cocktails, priced very reasonably.

Many thanks to the Barcelona Tourist Board for their help with this trip, more information here.