Feeling the effects of the occasional large lunch and bijou glass of vino, the Social Bitches began this year by banishing carbs, and embarking on the driest January imaginable. The only respite from this ongoing misery: Friday night mocktails. But miraculously, we’re still drinking them!
Not so long ago, we felt sure the adage “you don’t need to drink to have a good time” was, well, frankly … a load of old shite.
But with our functional alcoholism set on pause, we were forced to choose between either going into seclusion, or finding a new way of being a social bitch.
Fortunately, Edinburgh’s finest mixologists have come to the rescue, creating mocktails every bit as sophisticated and dynamic as their alcoholic counterparts …
The Permit Room @ Dishoom
3a St Andrew Square, EH2 2 BD
Not only does Dishoom boast incredible food and exceedingly good service, it also offers a vast selection of tipples that are dry. Alcohol-free wine, beer, even coolers are all in generous supply, and then there’s those fabulous mocktails.
Excessive even when sober, we’ve tried just about every one of them, kicking off with: the Sober Martini which uses juniper, ginger, gentian root, grape and cucumber to create the bitterness and warmth of gin. Simply put, it’s f**king gorgeous.
Then’s there’s the Kala Khatta Sharbat which sees Kokum fruit juice blended with chilli, citrus and black salt. It’s then left to rest, and strained over ice. Earthy and intense, believe us your tastebuds will tingle with sheer joy.
Meanwhile the Dry Old Fashioned is a total game-changer, promising – and most definitely delivering – fire in the throat and a satisfying warmth in the belly.
In fact, this wondrous mix of smoked demerara, orange bitters, applewood, cayenne and orange peel makes you feel as if you’re sitting in a leather armchair, next to a roaring fire. Who knew all of this could achieved without alcohol??
But wait … there’s more! Dishoom has even managed to reinvent one of our favourite indulgences, the espresso martini.
Known simply as the Dry Monsoon Martini, this non-alcoholic version combines Catuai espresso with Dishoom’s secret spirit essence, chilli and crema to create a drink that’s well … possibly even better than the original! #controversial
The Voodoo Rooms
19a West Register Street EH2 2AA
Thanks to a decor that’s beyond fabulous, and a bar-staff to match, our love affair with Voodoo Rooms has been raging for almost a decade. So what better place to go when looking for an inspired taste that’s also alcohol-free.
While there’s not a dedicated mocktail menu as such, many of the drinks on offer are easily adapted without losing any of their zing. Or, you can always ask the bar to create you something fabulous on the spot.
Helping to make this possible is the miraculous invention known as Seedlip – the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit. Adding to the wonder, it’s also free of sugar, sweetener, or even calories. Jesus, what’s not to love?? But we digress …
Beginning with chapter one of Voodoo’s cocktail menu [ playfully entitled “Release the Voodoo” ] we decided Can You Dig It? would make a wonderful start to the night. Normally made with tequila, Seedlip Spice 94 effortlessly takes its place.
When combined with pink grapefruit compote, lime and vanilla, along with lashings of pineapple and mango juice, you have something rather special. One sip of this mind-blowing drink, and somehow you feel instantly more relaxed. Seriously.
So, after another round of those, we moved on to the Be All, End All which combines Seedlip Garden 108 with Angostura bitters, green tea, ginger, honey water, and pineapple juice. Both soothing and tantalising, it too is rather heavenly.
Completing out trilogy of sober excitement, Rosie [ Voodoo’s General Manager ] then whipped us up an ad-lib mocktail that combines Seedlip Grove 42 with apple juice, raspberries, and passionfruit, topped off with ginger beer. Wow!
Yet again we were blown away, and asked rather dramatically: whatever is this sweet nectar of the gods called? Rosie pondered for a moment, then laughed.
“Is Passionate Summer too cheesy? she asked.
“No,” we declared, taking another hugely enjoyable sip. “It’s perfect!”
14 George Street EH2 2PF
One of the New Town’s finest buildings, The Dome is a great choice when you’re looking for a real sense of occasion. Built in the Graeco-Roman style, everything from its stone pillars to those insane flower arrangements is totally breathtaking.
After admiring the grandeur of the main bar, it’s usually off the Club Room we head, where wood-panelled walls and art-deco style mirrors are the perfect backdrop for enjoying an expertly shaken Cos-NO-Politan.
Once again, it’s a drink made possible thanks to Seedlip. Add to the mix cranberry juice, orange juice, lime and grenadine, and you can happily enjoy the taste of a classic cocktail, and still be able to operate heavy machinery.
And speaking of classics … the Dome’s Mai Tai #4 is also a must. Thanks to almond syrup, lime, ginger, pineapple and orange it packs a mighty punch. A favourite of the Social Bitches, we are officially impressed with its perfect blend of tart and sweet.
102 George Street EH2 3DF
It’s no secret we love a mouthful of spicy Brazilian sausage, but that’s not the only satisfaction you can expect from Fazenda’s wonderfully flirty waiters. [ Hugo, lovely Hugo! ] They’re also serving up some amazing mocktails, making dinner sans wine, even sans champagne, still a complete joy.
So as well as eating our own bodyweight in barbecued meat, we also delighted in drinking many a Guarana Sour – which combines fresh lemon, blackberries and sugar, with “Guarana Antartica” – a wonderfully zesty taste direct from Brazil.
Equally pleasing is the French Connection thanks to a mix of cucumber tonic water, apple, elderflower, and a cheeky a dash of almond. But while these superb drinks make sobriety much, much less of a punishment, our favourite is the Cafe Colombo.
Taking its name form the oldest cafe in Rio de Janeiro, its four simple ingredients – tonic water, espresso, raspberry and lemon– combine to create a mocktail so exceptional, it’s every bit as fabulous as an espresso martini. #even_more_controversial
The Bearded Barman @ Foundry 39
39a Queensferry Street EH2 4RA
Over the course of this sober journey, it’s also been our absolute pleasure to meet The Bearded Barman, aka Harry Robinson. Based at Foundry 39, he’s a man deeply passionate about mixology, with plenty of flair and talent to back it up.
Harry’s also hugely ambitious, insisting that he wants every cocktail he creates to be “outstanding”. It’s a mantra we were only too happy to put to the test, and so asked him to invent two brand new mocktails.
Excitedly he set to work, and soon we were looking at one of our favourite sights: a bearded barman with a rather large tray of drinks.
“This,” Harry proudly announced “… is the Social Bitches Quartet!!
Four very different drinks – one spicy, one sweet, one sour, and one smooth – a four seasons, if you like, of mocktail drinking. Cue our rapturous applause!
The presentation’s top-notch, clearly, but above all we love, love, LOVE Harry’s obvious sense of drama. But … it’s only when we began to sip these gorgeous creations that we truly appreciated his artistry.
Allow us to talk you through the many nuances of the The Social Bitches Quartet:
Spicy – Now this is a drink with layers! Combining red apple with red chillis, orange juice, lemon, peach and bitters, topped with soda– it teases the palette with bursts of heat, followed by subtler cooler tastes, making this mocktail a perfect pleasure.
Sweet – Then for lovers of a sweeter vibe [ yes, guilty! ] this combination of muddled blackberries with maraschino cherries, pineapple juice, hibiscus syrup, and lime, topped with lemonadeis as bold as it’s possible to be. But despite the intense sweetness, its varied notes offer a sophisticated and complex taste.
Sour – Take fresh rosemary, pineapple juice, a dash of passionfruit syrup, lemon & lime, sprinkle a little sugar and you have the perfect sour – a wonderfully dry mocktail we could gladly sip for the rest of time.
But while each member of this quartet lives up to Harry’s desire to be outstanding, our favourite is the Smooth – which combines a Wild Scottish berry reduction [ that’s blueberries, raspberries and strawberries ] with basil, apple juice, cranberry, lime, Angostura bitters, and Mrs Better’s magical foam.
It looks like a work of art, and that’s not the only sense this mocktail seduces. With multiple layers of flavour and texture, it’s an experience that’s truly irresistible.
Harry, we love your work!!
Given the skill and incredible tastes on offer, Friday night mocktails are now a regular [ or at least semi-regular ] event in the Social Bitches’ calendar. So while drinking a shedload of alcohol will definitely remain a trademark, our voyage of discovery is only just beginning.
Watch this space …