While Gin Festival was in Edinburgh, we took the opportunity to explore the gin based delights of the Heads and Tales Gin Bar.
Edinburgh is a town spoilt for gin bars, so it wasn’t the easiest decision choosing which one to single out to visit for a dram of gin and a cocktail or two.
In the end my senses decided to head to the hidden gem that is Heads and Tales. Home of the the excellent Edinburgh Gin Distillery and located in the basement of the Rutland Hotel, a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s Princes Street.
Although it’s in a central spot, Heads and Tales is most definitely hidden away, which made it all the more appealing for me. You’ll walk past it 3 or 4 times and eventually will notice a lit brass plaque above a staircase that you’re not sure if you should go down or not.
Head down the stone stairs and you’ll find yourself somewhere that would fit comfortably into the times of prohibition. Entering through a dimly, but cosily lit corridor with alcoved, arched booths to your left, you get the feeling that this is a bar that you could settle down in for quite a few hours.
Heading to the bar and main seating area, the first thing you notice (and you could hardly miss them) are two working stills shining away, reassuring you that this place lives and breaths gin. Greeted with a smile by one of the stylish and welcoming bar staff, we were sat in one of the exclusive-feeling alcoves and got straight into exploring our menus.
With an amazing selection of gins behind the bar and with staff who definitely know their stuff, Heads and Tales is a bar for those who want to sip G & T’s all night or indulge themselves in great cocktails for the evening.
One particularly novel and unique thing about the Heads and Tales menu is their option to G.I Y or “Gin It Yourself”. This concept gives you the option to design your own cocktail! Now I get to do this on a regular basis in my line of work (oh the chore!), but I’ve never been in a bar where you can play about and experiment yourself to create something to your taste.
G.I.Y works in three steps. First, choose the type of glass to determine the size and style of cocktail you’ll get. Second, choose the gin you want from a list of around 8. Step 3, choose your main flavour base. From orange to beetroot there’ll be something that will take your fancy. If this all seems a little daunting, the staff are extremely helpful and will help you step by step by asking all the right questions to work out something that will suit you.
As well as the option of a G.I.Y cocktails, Heads and Tales has a great menu of original Cocktails. I tried two of these, starting with the ‘Purple Emperor’ consisting of Heads and Tales Gin (their own gin, distilled by Edinburgh Gin Distillery), triple sec, vanilla and two magic ingredients, Butterfly Syrup and lemon juice. Presented in a glass teacup, the liquid in it is a wonderful purple from the Butterfly Syrup (made from the butterfly pea plant), with a shot of the lemon juice, vanilla and triple sec sitting in the middle. When this shot is poured into the clear purple liquid, a chemical reaction happens and, with the change in PH, the acid reacts with the butterfly pea powder to change to colour of the drink into a delightful pink colour. Not only did this cocktail taste great, it had a bit of science thrown in to make it a real experience too.
I then went for a Morning Haar Cocktail. When in Scotland, it’d be silly of me not to go for a drink that combines two things the Scots do amazingly well, gin and whisky. With Edinburgh Gin and Ardberg whisky this was a must. Combined with benedictine, raspberry and bitters, this is not a flavour combination that will suit everyone, but the combination of smoky whisky, dry gin and a herbal sweetness from the benedictine and raspberries made for a complex and thick flavour that left me feeling very warm afterwards!
After being adventurous I went for a favourite that not every bar can get right. A good old classic Dry Martini. Choosing Edinburgh Gin’s Navy Strength ‘Cannonball Gin’, I wasn’t let down. It arrived as dry as requested, cold and with a twist. The perfect way to end a great night out in a great bar.
Now may be the time to say that I may have gone for a whisky or two after this (it would be rude not to in the world’s whisky capital) but that certainly didn’t overshadow the great night with the world’s most superior spirit beforehand.
If you’re in Edinburgh anytime soon I’d heartily recommend a visit to Heads and Tales. You won’t be disappointed.
By Pete Barrett (Pete is part of the Gin Festival Events team and runs our cocktail bar.)
You can find out more about Heads and Tales at: http://www.headsandtalesbar.com/
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