Tales of the Cocktail took to the road for the first time in 2011 with a jaunt over the border to Vancouver.
Founder Ann Tuennerman wanted to start bringing her phenomenally successful event to people who couldn’t travel to New Orleans, but consciously decided to seek out up and coming cities rather than the ones getting all the hype. Subsequent editions of Tales on Tour docked in Buenos Aires and, most recently, Mexico City.
Every two years, the spirits industry eagerly anticipates the announcement of the next stop and this year was no different. Introducing next year’s destination… Edinburgh. Scotland has long been associated with whisky, especially its fabled single malt scotches. But the cocktail scene has developed rapidly in the past few years.
“It’s a city that’s drenched in history and has a community of bartenders doing some incredible things behind the stick, even if they aren’t getting as much attention as bartenders in other European cities. That and you’re sitting within a few hours of more than 100 distilleries.”
– Ann Tuennerman says of the decision to bring Tales to Edinburgh
Mike Aikman and Jason Scott arguably kicked off the city’s love affair with cocktails with the opening of the Bramble Bar in 2006. Two more bars followed, The Last Word in 2012 and Lucky Liquor in 2013. Each outlet has its own identity, from the Bramble’s gin focus and renowned Affinity bottle-aged cocktail to Lucky Liquor’s list of 13 commercial spirits that change quarterly and are supplemented with house liqueurs and infusions.
“There’s a lot of guys running bars who’ve been through the system in larger group operators that have taken the ideas they like and discarded the ones they don’t and set up bars and restaurants that reflect their ideas and values.”
– Jason Scott, Operations Manager for the Bramble Bars Group, crediting a new generation of bar owners for the burgeoning scene
He cites relative newcomer Panda & Sons as another bar to check out. There, the theme is quirky speakeasy, where you enter through a faux barbershop before stepping into a room full of daft panda portraits and offbeat furnishings.
Aikman is close with another influential owner, Stu McCluskey, operator of The Bon Vivant and The Devil’s Advocate. The Bon Vivant opened in 2008, followed by The Devil’s Advocate in 2014. McCluskey cites Sasha Petraske’s philosophy as a major influence on his bars and takes a “less is more” approach to cocktails, preferring to “concentrate on excellent spirits, seasonal ingredients, mixed with good techniques and balanced well. There’s a huge amount of preparation work that goes in ahead of shift making ice, oleo’s, shrubs, etc.”
Rather than focusing on whisky, Edinburgh bars showcase the diversity of the world’s spirits and the trend of using fresh ingredients. McCluskey points to the Americas for exciting ingredients appearing on the scene.
“People are finally taking more of an interest in Agave spirits… Hallelujah! It’s great to see more and more American whiskey arriving here too. Our only stipulation is that products we use must be quality.”
– Stu McCluskey, operator of The Bon Vivant and The Devil’s Advocate
Tuennerman promises an exciting look behind the Edinburgh cocktail scene next year. “While bartenders in Edinburgh draw inspiration from the legendary whisky tradition of the region, they are hardly limited by it. It’s such a diverse community of distillers and bartenders pushing the entire industry with the spirits and drinks they create on a daily basis.”
See you in 2017!