Walking down the steps to this small basement bar, it’s hard to see why Bramble Bar & Lounge is one of the top cocktail bars in Edinburgh. Aside from a small brass plaque near the door, you’d never know that Bramble was even here. Don’t mistake Bramble for a speakeasy, because it’s not. Bramble is one of many amazing small bars in the world that reveal themselves to those who linger, and let this enchanting bar reveal itself.
Bramble is a very small bar, with only a handful of bar seats and just a few nooks and crannies for small groups to squirrel themselves away. Bramble is the kind of bar that lends itself to getting comfortable, hanging out, and forgetting how quickly 1am can come.
Bramble gets its name from one of the best modern classic cocktails, created by famed UK bartender Dick Bradsell. The Bramble is an amazingly simple drink with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, creme de mure, and crushed ice. The Bramble is one of the most approachable gin drinks and can be quickly and easily made. Picking this cocktail says a lot about the Bramble Bar (the bar has no official connection to Dick Bradsell – the name is an homage) – it is unpretentious, approachable, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Bramble’s cocktail menu is eclectic with over 20 cocktails as well as an impressive gin and tonic list including an impressive array of gin choices. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the major highlights of the menu (in addition to the Bramble cocktail) is a gin-based drink.
Bramble’s Celery Sour has many of the elements necessary to become a modern classic: it’s not complicated, it’s easy to assemble, and it’s delivers wonderful flavor and complexity while still being approachable. The Celery Sour has Beefeater Gin, fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, pineapple juice, and celery bitters. The celery bitters do a fantastic job of creating superb aromatics without overpowering the drink, and the pineapple juice add dimensionality to the base which is effectively a gin sour.
Another notable offering at Bramble is their barrel aged cocktail, the Aged Affinity Cocktail. Barrel aging cocktails has become popular in craft cocktail bars, but many bars leave their cocktails in barrels on the back bar where they often become over-oaked. Bramble has cleverly taken the barrels off the back bar and filled small 100ml bottles with a perfectly aged cocktail. By putting their aged cocktails in small bottles, Bramble is able to chill these bottles without having to dilute them with ice, which results in a much richer and intense cocktail. Another great benefit of bottling the Affinity Cocktail is that the bottles can be purchased for take away.
The Affinity Cocktail features Glenmorangie 10 year old Highland Whisky, and a house-mixed vermouth with Byrrh (a bitter appertif wine) mixed with Noilly Prat dry. The cocktail is served in a wax-sealed bottle which you open and pour over a brandied cherry and an orange twist. The result is a rich and slightly bitter cocktail with balanced oak notes that act like bitters in the cocktail and help pull everything together.
The staff behind the Bramble are extremely passionate about what they do. This passion doesn’t come off at all pretentious, like it can in some of the world’s notable craft cocktail bars. The bar staff is just as happy to serve a nice cold beer as they are the most complex cocktail on their menu. Bramble is another solid argument for small bars. The intimacy created by the small space coupled with a bar staff who treats you more like a guest than a customer creates a space that you’ll want to spend a lot of time in. It’s easy with the cocktail revolution to constantly be in bar hop mode, but Bramble is the kind of bar that will make you stop, sip, and enjoy some of the best cocktails that Edinburgh has to offer.
The Bramble Bar and Lounge is located at 16A Queen St., Edinburgh, Midlothian EH2 1JE, United Kingdom (+44 131 226 6343)