There are plenty of places to get an excellent cocktail in the capital, from Hey Palu to newbies, Superico Bar & Lounge and The Alchemist.
However, it’s easy to forget about bar and restaurant The Register Club, primarily because it’s up on the fourth floor of Cheval The Edinburgh Grand on St Andrew Square. It can feel a bit intimidating to stride into a hotel lobby, and take the lift up, but do it anyway.
The incentive, along with new breakfast, lunch and light bites food offerings, is a new winter cocktail menu, which launches on November 17. This list of 10 drinks was designed by their Portuguese barman, Ruben Goncalves, who joined the team three months ago. There is all sorts of gadgetry set up behind his bar, from vinegar bottles to blow torches, swizzle sticks, long spoons for muddling, and Kilner jars filled with fruit leather that Goncalves has made from dried berries. He’s into avoiding food waste, so they use fruit juices but always keep the pulp and skin for garnishes.
Watching him mixing the cocktails is theatre, especially when he pours between two shakers. It looks like he’s stretching the liquid.
“I practised with water, when I first learnt how to do this,” he says.
His favourite on the new menu is a take on an espresso martini called Second Life, which contains vodka, Kummel, cacao liquor, raspberry syrup and an espresso shot. “You can also have it decaf,” says Goncalves.
There’s also The Grand, which is the hotel general manager’s favourite, so was quickly slotted into the new drinks list.
This contains white rum, Chinotto, citric acid, IPA cordial with grapefruit and juniper and soda water, and is light, bright and zesty. Goncalves gets his ice from Edinburgh Ice, and the glass also contains something that’s the size of a post global warming berg. It’s all garnished by a sprig of rosemary, which the mixologist expertly blowtorches.
As I’m a tequila fan, my favourite is the Uxmal, which is named after a Maian temple and means ‘thrice built’. I wish I could drink it three times, but that might be unwise, since this is a heady one, with tequila, mezcal, orange and spices shrub, falernum, absinthe, lime juice and Angostura. It also has a sprinkle of nutmeg over the top, for something vaguely Christmassy that could send Santa over the limit for sledge driving.
Since I’m a lightweight, with a two cocktail limit before I make a show of myself, I only have a couple of sips of another two, while listening to the Roaring Twenties style music in this wood-panelled room. The Southern Tip contains dark rum, Aperol, fino sherry and roasted pineapple cordial, and has a dried bit of this fruit skating on its Negroni-style ice-cube.
Gin Lane is a take on a vodka with cranberry. It’s a pink concoction in a coupe glass, with Tanqueray 10 Gin, Amaretto Disaronno, Tio Pepe, strawberry syrup, citric acid and saline solution (‘to bring the flavours out”, says Goncalves). I ask if it’s wise to try the garnish - a strawberry, pickled in balsamic vinegar - and I get the nod. It’s something of an intriguing taste sensation, just like the brand new cocktails.