We say it all the time: cocktails concoctions, spirits, blends and bars are getting braver and more and more outrageous as time goes by. With winter firmly gripping the city, Edinburgh is readying itself for the festive season and all the cheer and goodwill that it brings along for the ride. So it’s no surprise the Blackbird is doing the same and changing their menu to account for our berry wintry tastes.
Heading back to the ‘bird
We’ve met bar manager Josh and his funky cocktails before, and we were absolutely blown away by the bar when we stopped by a year or two ago. So what happened when we were back in the city and popped in to taste their new winter menu? We didn’t have much time in Edinburgh, so we knew we were taking a chance revisiting. Would it be as grand was the last time?
Popping by one freezing evening, we couldn’t wait to get inside and out of the cold. Even on a Wednesday night, the bar was crammed. Always a good sign for us. It’s not in central Edinburgh either, full of people wandering by after a day of sightseeing and shopping – it’s out in Haymarket’s west end which requires a special trip for most people. Put the two together and we reckon it’s built up quite the reputation over the years. It’s actually a few doors down the Harajuku Kitchen, too.
So what about the cocktails? After browsing through the menu, quite frankly we didn’t know where to start. The seven-drink menu is a product of Josh’s vast global experience of creating cocktails and not for the gin and tonic loving, stick-to-what-you-know types.
The new cocktails: eggs, chai, and sage
We dived into the Lucy in Disguise, given that it contained Woodford Reserve (one of our favourite whiskies), lemon juice, nutmeg and er, egg yolk. Yes you read that right. Yolk. And that’s not even the exhaustive list of ingredients that make up this new addition to the menu. Imagine a warming, wintery creamy cocktail, and that’s what it tastes like. The original actually had egg white, but it didn’t quite mix properly. We weren’t complaining.
A drink like that sets the bar pretty high, but Josh was adamant we were only just getting started. Intriguing.
We love chai latte and one of Laura’s cousins who lives in London has perfected the drink to a tee, so the Chai Milk Punch was something we couldn’t say no to. It’s served in a takeaway coffee mug, which we thought was a neat touch. Now that would be a great way to start a Monday, wouldn’t it? We weren’t sure about the chai-ness to begin with – let’s be honest all of the cocktails are a unique combination of flavours – but the more we sipped away, the better it got. It’s one of those drinks for those who love wintry spices (and booze, of course).
In retrospect, two creamy cocktails to start with probably wasn’t the best idea as we were feeling rather full, so we needed something lighter to cleanse the palate and finish our tour of the menu. Step forward the brilliantly-named Sage Against the Machine. As its title suggests, it has sage in it. Obviously. I mean, why would you think a cocktail WOULDN’T have sage in it? Did we mention the roast chestnut sugar and egg white too? It was the freshest drink on the menu, and definitely one you’ll either love or hate. We loved it. As we said to Josh, you wouldn’t expect these fairly complicated combinations to work, but they just do.
The Harold Bishop
All of the new cocktails have something you’d expect in a festive drink, what with the spices and whisky and eggnog inspiration, but there’s nothing that says winter like mulled wine, right? Right. A handful of spices dropped into a lovely pan of mulled wine heating oh so slowly, sipping away from a mug in front of the open fire is the essence of winter.
But not at the Blackbird. Oh no. Their Harold Bishop concoction (that’s the dude from Neighbours, you are correct) has clementine, chocolate bitters and cold mulled wine. Yes, cold mulled wine. Imagine an espresso martini – dark underneath and fluffy and light on top. That’s what this is, but with cold mulled wine. It’s an absolute star – funny given the Star of Bombay that sits atop of the drink.
Would we recommend the Blackbird if you’re Edinburgh-bound? Definitely. Would we hop on a flight just to visit the bar? Absolutely. And with £25 flights from London, we’re tempted to book right now…
The Blackbird | 37-39 Leven St, Edinburgh EH3 9LH | 0131 228 2280 | Website