I would like to make two points to begin this article.
I think the concept for Edinburgh Cocktail Week is amazing. Making cocktails more accessible to those who would not normally choose to drink them is something I truly stand for and I hope the event continues.
I hope they invite me back next year after I write this, it was a great experience to be able to attend this event as part of the media and I look forward to watching it grow from here.
But as somebody who has worked in high-end cocktail bars for years, I do need to say something about this year’s event. I feel as media and one who honestly provided my experience in my accreditation application, I now must be honest.
This event (in its current format) is simply a fun pop up. One of the many pop-ups we are truly blessed to experience while calling Edinburgh home and as such in that simple way I think it is absolutely fantastic.
The problem is, in Edinburgh, we are blessed with some of the best bars in the world and with that come some of the most passionate talent going around. In these bars, we have some incredibly interesting drinks, drinks both accessible and inventive while ticking all the boxes in regards to flavour. Not just my opinion, fact.
For me making a cocktail is a way to express creativity, a way to challenge peoples perceptions but also simply just a product that puts smiles on faces. Bartenders are lucky, unlike chefs who are typically locked away in the kitchen, we are there to see the reactions of each and every customer. Witnessing the smile on someone's face as they unexpectedly discover something new that they love is one of the most satisfying things you could witness in your life.
At Lucky Liquor there is a drink called the ‘Margherita Margarita' created by Ben Hardy which introduces the flavours of a Margherita pizza into a twist onto the classic Margarita cocktail - genius! Sounds strange, but it actually works.
At Dragonfly, the first drink in the menu is called ‘Thistle Dhu’ a tall whisky fizz style drink incorporating both thistles and charcoal - one of the most aesthetically pleasing drinks I’ve encountered in my life made by Jamie Swift.
Both drinks are creative, born from similar principles to those I just mentioned and would make a killing at an event like Edinburgh Cocktail week.
Ben recognises flavours in food and doesn’t see why that can’t be transferable into liquid form. Jamie loves Scotland's Whisky Industry and wants to change peoples idea that whisky is meant to be drunk in winter by the fire - that it is versatile and can make tall elegant crowd-pleasing drinks.
These are the types of drinks, people and ideas that should be making it into Edinburgh Cocktail Week. It should be a celebration of the amazing culture, talent and cocktails this city nurtures while inviting people to try something new.
Everybody has tried an espresso martini, everyone thinks a pornstar martini is tasty (I even do) but are we simply rehashing these to make a bit of coin or should we be celebrating the amazing industry we're lucky to have?
This though is what I can tell you and feel free to go check the ECW website for confirmation:
- 44 of the cocktails are pink.
- 14 are garnished with edible flowers, 16 are garnished with berries. The rest have a twist or some sort of herb that isn’t even in the actual drink.
- 43 are made on either Gin or Vodka while another nine are based on a liqueur.
- Only five are on a single malt Scotch Whisky while another four are on a whisky blend.
- There are more bourbon drinks than single malt drinks.
- 14 are literally just a classic with a different name or soda added.
- Less than a handful look to be stirred down and spirit forward.
The Pop Up in Festival Square followed a similar trend.
I understand this style of drink will be more palatable for the majority than a stirred down boozy drink ever will be, but it is hardly a representation of what a cocktail can be. Most are spirit, liqueur, juice, sugar and maybe egg white or soda - how is this a celebration of what this city can do?
Again, these drinks are great in moderation but there is not a great deal of variety here.
I find it interesting that the ‘best’ and most awarded bars in town did not even take part in the event. Where in Edinburgh Cocktail Week do we get to celebrate that Edinburgh has two cocktail bars in the Worlds top 100? Next year I imagine it will be at least three with the arrival of Nauticus. Such a cool concept and is an amazing bar down in Leith.
Check it out if you haven’t.
There are a few drinks that did stand out for positive reasons.
- Whisky in the Garden from The Glasshouse was stunning and a great way to entice somebody to try a short boozy whisky drink while still providing a decent amount of sweetness and complexity.
- Dragonfly used Escubac as their base spirit and twisted an old favourite, the only bar on the list to use something a bit different.
- While I didn’t have a chance to get to The Refinery, the drink they created looks appealing and elegant.
- TP’s Last Hoorah from Kaleidoscope was an exceptional use of a whisky from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, you’d think there would be more of this at this event though I understand Gin was a bit of a theme.
- The Escubac Last Word on draught at the Festival Square tent from Lindors Abbey was incredible.
- Voodoo Rooms also did a great job with their Porto Berry Road.
There were so many amazing brands and products on display, Edinburgh Gin and Caorunn especially did great jobs. In my opinion, though, encouraging a more creative style of serve will only showcase further how amazing these brands are and I’m positive the crowds will still turn up to take more thought-provoking drinks for a spin.
So why not give the opportunity to push people out of their comfort zones just a tiny bit? Why not offer a variety of choices, styles, servings and spirits? Or is the priority of the event more from a commercial point of view? Maybe my passion is why my personal bank account doesn’t look so great.
Maybe I’m just looking at it from the wrong point of view, I just think Edinburgh Cocktail Week should be a celebration of cocktails and encouraging the masses to be excited about them. Push the industry forward, encourage creativity and show the world why this city is so damn special.
Not every drink needs to be a crowd pleaser, not everyone needs to love every single drink but discussion will only lead to greater things. Hell, I imagine a lot of people aren’t going to like reading this but it will at least get people talking.
Please invite me back xoxo