16A Queen Street
0131 226 6343
Mike Aikman and Jason Scott had been working as bartenders in Edinburgh for five years when they came to a stark realisation: there were no bars left in the city that these cocktail lovers were excited to work in. The solution was deceptively simple. They took over a struggling basement space, opened Bramble and never looked back.
“It’s not the most desirable of sites,” Mike says of the space that houses his now award-winning cocktail bar, “but we’ve worked with that we’ve got. To this day Jason says that he wasn’t sure it was going to work. But I was blindly optimistic about it, and so far, I’ve been proven right.”
To call Bramble a success is something of an understatement. It’s more like an Edinburgh legend, and just last month celebrated its 10-year anniversary. So what makes this cosy cavern just across the road from the Queen Street Gardens so special?
With beautiful cocktails and a wonderful intimate atmosphere, it’s not hard to see why anyone would love to be a Bramble regular. But Mike’s keen eye for detail, from the presentation of his wonderful cocktails to serving fresh water with every round, is what truly sets Bramble apart.
“It’s about the little things,” he says. “Attention to detail and quality – of service, of product, of music, of everything. When I’m in Bramble, the lighting can completely change in the space of 20 minutes from being too dark to too bright. I’ll notice if the lights haven’t been turned down for half an hour.”
True gin lovers, Mike and Jason keep the cocktail list turning over seasonally and the gin list a paean to high quality spirits. New drinks go through a long vetting process – sometimes just two of 12 prospective concoctions make it onto the new menu – and this isn’t the place to get trendy gins that don’t stand up to Mike and Jason’s well-trained palates.
“We opened with about 40 gins, and that’s where we are now. We did have more at one stage, but we felt that it got to the stage where it was just about people showing off. Now we only take one on when we find something interesting.”
With respected industry festival, Tales of the Cocktail, set to come to Edinburgh, Mike, Jason and the Bramble crew are gearing up for a tenth year to rule them all. For Mike, it’s a celebration that will show the world what Edinburgh’s thriving cocktail scene has to offer.
“We’ve all got love for London,” he says, “but it’s difficult to have your own scene that isn’t overshadowed. For Tales of the Cocktail to come here is a massive thing for our community. Edinburgh is small, so it’s quite tight knit. We’re all really excited.”
For a man who loves to settle back with a fantastic cocktail, Mike is also excited to show a whole new population the joys of a perfectly mixed drink in a beautiful bar.
“There’s nothing quite like it – to have the time to relax and focus on having a nice drink in a nice environment,” he says. “I have kids and three bars, so if I have time to sit in a bar and have a good quality drink it’s a pretty special occasion!”
Signature Cocktail: Bramble
50ml London Dry Gin
25ml Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
15ml Sugar Syrup
15ml Merlet Crème de Mûre
Pour the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup into a shaker half filled with ice, and shake until cold. Strain into a fancy wine glass over crushed ice and drizzle the Crème de Mûre