Although themed, it is certainly not a venue of style over substance and the cocktails on offer are first-class, refined and intelligent.
The false exterior is all part of the prohibition-style disguise. Once you get downstairs, the prohibition theme remains strong with witty curiosities adorning the walls and dim lighting. It is a wonderful experience.
There are six chapters of the menu to peruse and presented in numerical order, each showcasing various skills in the drinks’ creation. Although there is a wide choice of menus, the selection of drinks on each is relatively concise.
Chapter One offers drinks made using sous vide, clarification and fat washing techniques – aong others – resulting in drinks such as the Switched Negroni, which is made using Citrus Star of Bombay, Cocchi Torino and Campari.
Also in Chapter One is the Paolo Appletini made using olive washed Grey Goose, clarified apple, Avallen Calvados, umeshu and lemon; Birdcage made with Jonnie Walker Gold Label, Aperol, Angostura Bitters, rhubarb and lemongrass shrub, and cinnamon and clove smoke; and the Red Panda made with Tanqueray, lemon, tomato, sriracha, kaffir lime leaf, cucumber, Guinness foam and Worcestershire sauce.
Chapter Two through Six present drinks made with ingredients from other famous cocktail bars, and includes drinks such as Tian Tian made using sugar snap pea cordial, Boutique-ey Gin Gin Panda, Dolin dry, verjus, Ahus Akvavit and absinthe.
A little history about the venue tells us Panda and his kin launched the family-run Edinburgh prohibition-style bar in November 2013 and it has since gone from strength to strength.
Panda is still very much involved in the business, while his two sons – Rupert and wee Benson – will be much more involved soon.
On the bar’s website, Panda says: “We are a hidden bar fusing the classic Prohibition style Speakeasy and a nod to the vintage-style barbershop.
“All we can say is that if you find a barbershop with some foreign currency, you have made it to the libation destination.”