Written by Colin Fraser
The clacking of cocktail shakers have ramped up around the city as we celebrate the festivities in hearty measure. Tis the season to be merry and bright after all – but depending on your poison, you may not be so bright after…
Be it a Margarita with plenty of kick, a punchy Negroni, velvety White Russian or a mocktail to make you question the alcohol contents, your perfect serve is waiting to be sipped in the city.
Stepping below the cobbles of Belmont Street, the subterranean tavern of The Tippling House awaits with style and plenty of substance. Offering a late night spot to drink into the early hours, once cosied up in one of its tartan tweed booths you’ll soon find it hard to leave.
The cocktails are experimental, carefully combining ingredients to create an eclectic menu of discovery featuring local and renowned alcohol brands. Great drinks are accompanied by great food with seasonal tasting menus, bottomless brunches and bar snacks on offer – the lineup on its festive tasting menu sounds out of this world.
Sharing his recipe for the ‘Port of Call’ cocktail, owner Adrian Gomes shared: “This drink appeared on our first ever winter cocktail list at The Tippling House, back in 2012. I love the mulled wine flavours this drink gives off, without the sweetness (and heat) you would expect from a traditional Vin Chaud.
“The look of the drink is almost as appealing as the palate, and this being a batch-friendly recipe means you can fill a punch bowl at parties by adding a zero onto each measurement.”
If delving below the cobbles of Aberdeen gives you a taste for more near-hidden spots, a visit to 21 Crimes is a must. Step back in time to the prohibition era where the roaring 1920s have been reimagined with an art deco vibe, jazz music and plenty of class.
The key to the days of prohibition was secrets and 21 Crimes does just that with this speak easy bar safely under lock and key… well, unless you know where to find it that is. With an exclusive menu inspired by notorious, weird and wonderful crimes of the 18th and 19th century, drinking these cocktails definitely has no punishment.
Dusk is your place for Pornstar Martinis, Daiquiris, Old Fashioneds and the rest of the classic cocktails catalogue along with plenty of original mixes too. Drawing on the expertise of its knowledgeable bar team (famously known as Dusketeers), each cocktail is – as they says – “meticulously muddled and mixed together” to create each carefully crafted item.
With Omicron filling the headlines, you may be a bit hesitant to venture out and lucky for you, Dusk takes the bar to your door with its bottled cocktail delivery range. I had some Espresso Martinis delivered for my birthday earlier this year and I can confirm the Dusk experience materialised in my kitchen.
Elegant, chic and swanky are the words I would use to describe Grape & Grain which came on the scene a few years ago as the place to go for quality wine and the best of Scottish beers and spirits. Now with the recent addition of cocktails to its menu, this bar is hitting every mark of my bar wishlist.
Giving off stylish London energy with its front door draped in flowers and foliage, a secret garden awaits indoors as the greenery moves inside to dress its ceiling and walls. With live music a regular feature and a grand piano just asking for a merry old sing-song, exuberance oozes here.
When the taste for a Margarita hits, I beeline straight for Bar Ninety-Nine. The cocktails here never let you down and blended with easy-going, chill vibes in healthy measure, it’s right up there as my favourite bar in the city.
Take your pick of inventive mixes and weekly specials that are full of character (exhibit A, that bobbing unicorn duck), all created in-house by its ingenious team. When I’m not slurping a Margarita within an inch of its life, the refreshing and moreish glassful of ‘Hungry for Apples?’ is my favoured understudy right now.
If you want to go that step further and learn the tricks of the trade to making that killer cocktail, then you need a cocktail masterclass my friend. Boozy Events offers in person, offline and hybrid masterclass events sharing budding mixologists the tools and guidance to create irresistible cocktails. I had the pleasure of doing a virtual masterclass at the start of the year and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Founding Director Cameron shares his go to mix for the festivities: “The ideal festive cocktail for me is perhaps a bit different than you’d expect! Over the Christmas period our fridge is usually filled with lots of goodies and rich foods, so for me I like to keep my drinks light, crisp and refreshing.
“One of our top voted cocktails this year, which is featured on our festive virtual masterclasses is called the ‘Partridge in a Pear Tree’. It’s a pear and vodka based drink with a beautiful combination of cloves, star anise, elderflower, and lemon – it’s finally topped with soda water which helps all those flavours dance around your tongue. It’s the perfect palette cleanser in between courses of a big Christmas turkey dinner!”
In the true spirit of Christmas, Cameron shares the recipe for you to make at home.
That’s us at the bottom of this generous glass full of recommendations to enjoy on your next cocktail hunt.
Where recent developments in the Covid-sphere may have you scaling back your time spent in public spaces, but please do support local however you can during what looks like another challenging time for the hospitality sector.
Now with my teacher hat away, Merry Christmas when it comes and if you don’t over do it on the roasties, gravy and left over feasts, I’ll be very disappointed.
To keep up with my food escapades, follow on Instagram, read the blog and listen to the Dishin’ It podcast.