Deliciously, daring, decadent Summer-time cocktails at Juniper, Edinburgh.
Juniper is rather a hidden gem of a Drinking Den for those in the know – just off the beaten track from the popular Cocktail Bars along George Street. Since opening in the summer 2013, it has gradually become the coolest place in town to meet friends for a drink; linger longer over a G&T, glass of bubbly or refreshing cocktail – and with iconic city views.
27 April 2014: Before Juniper pops a cork to celebrate its first birthday, it was named ‘Rising Star Bar of the Year’ and also ‘Bar of the Year – Edinburgh and the Lothians’ at the Scottish Hotel Awards. Congratulations.!
It could not be more central, located at the East End of Princes Street within the Royal British Hotel which first opened in 1899. Juniper is the former grand Drawing Room of the hotel, now revamped with glamorous style: in the main bar salon the colour scheme is bold with chairs and sofas in shades of aubergine and lime.
Next door is the more traditionally designed Library – wood panelling, velvet-draped wing armchairs, fireplace.
So why did Juiniper win the award for Edinburgh Bar of the Year?
Well, it stands out for its fabulous, funky design and deliciously decadent Cocktails. Imagination is at the heart of the décor + the brilliantly-conceived alcoholic concoctions + friendly, knowledgeable service = a fabulous, fun night out in a casually sophisticated setting.
As the bar tenders claim –
“We are passionate about cocktails .. So go on, be adventurous and try one of our amazing creations – you’ll not be disappointed!”
The new Summer drinks menu – Bar Book Vol. III – has just been launched to tempt and tease the nose and palate with new, weirdly inventive Cocktails and Classics with a twist.
Under Recommended Cocktails I selected a Wet Gin Martini – served ice cold, this is a blend of Blackwood’s Gin with Lillet Blanc and a drizzle of lemon oil. Lillet blanc – (French aperitif of white wine with herbs and orange peel) – is the key ingredient in James Bond’s Vesper Martini created by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale. It hits the spot in an instant. Suave, cool and classy, like Bond himself.
Meanwhile, my drinking buddy Ken sampled a Vieux Carre – an American whiskey cocktail invented by Walter Berger at the Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans around 1928, naming it after the Old Square in the French Quarter of town. This is a strong yet subtle mix of spirits – Bulleit Rye whiskey, cognac, vermouth, Benedictine liqueur and aromatic bitters. The result is a sweet-sour, smooth drink to savour slowly to appreciate the complex depth of flavours.
(For theatre lovers, Vieux Carre is also the title of a play by Tennessee Williams who lived there and a fine production was performed at the Edinburgh Festival a couple of years ago.)
Juniper’s Cocktails are inspired by the history, culture and architecture of Edinburgh. From the list entitled The New Town, I ordered the Margarita, Ice on the Side. I do love a refreshingly sharp Margarita, but this is a clever contemporary version. All the ingredients, and more, are here: Tequila, Cointreau, Agave Sec, Lime, artistically served in a small carafe. Then you choose your own fruit flavoured ice. For me, Blood orange & rosemary – which has had to be prepared in advance (think of the work by the bar tenders!).
I add a couple of cubes of ice into my glass and then pour in the Margarita. The rim of the glass was not actually salted (as stated on the menu), but this is a truly innovative cocktail with the taste of a Mexican summer. 9/10.
In contrast, Ken chose an Old Town tipple, Trambell Sour – a reinvented Whiskey Sour featuring Ilegal Reposado Mezcal, (a speciality Mexican Agave), American rye, lemon and egg white to create a seriously rich, smokey cocktail to entice all the senses.
Yes, the mixologists here are certainly passionate about devising some deliciously complex cocktails with a real kick. You will not be disappointed, whatever your preferred style of spirits, from Bourbon to Rum, Gin to Tequila.
The summer drinks menu also features Midsummer Martini ( Hendricks and Elderflower liqueur et al), and why not share an Orient Express – a luxury, romantic “journey” for 2, (Saffron gin, Lychee, White tea syrup, Moet & Chandon). Ken and I shall be back to sample this one! (We are actually going on the Orient-Express from London to Venice next week!).
And you don’t just have to sip a drink or two at Juniper – Bar nibbles and Street Food snacks available too. And do call in for an aperitif before lunch or dinner at the adjoining Twenty Princes Street Grill, serving quality modern Scottish cuisine, which was ‘Specially Commended for Food & Drink’ at the Scottish Hotel Awards.
Juniper, 20 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AN. t. 0131 556 4901