Premium spirits will be central to the offer at Edinburgh bar and restaurant Clouds & Soil this Christmas.
The venue, opened by Chris Flint and Kara Anderson in May 2014 as a follow-up to their SLTN-Award-winning cocktail bar Bond No.9, is now an established presence on Picardy Place, offering cocktails and food as well as accommodation (the townhouse property includes four en suite letting rooms).
And while the food and accommodation sides of the business have been growing steadily in the course of the year, spirits and cocktails are still at the heart of the venue.
Speaking to SLTN, Chris said customers will often be willing to broaden their horizons over the festive season and try new spirits and drinks. It’s a trend the team will aim to take full advantage of in the weeks ahead.
“I’d say people get more adventurous coming up to Christmas,” he said.
“It depends on the person. You get some that know what they want and that’s all they want, but sometimes even just having the suggestion on the bar makes them more likely to give something a try.”
Clouds & Soil’s winter drinks list will include different mulled wine and hot toddy serves as well as a fresh take on that popular American festive favourite, eggnog.
Cocktails will also be an important part of the outlet’s Christmas package.
“Whenever we do private functions for a group we always offer to create a cocktail for that group,” said Chris.
“We’ll take the things we like and try and make a drink for them around that. It started off as something we did for birthday bookings and we just expanded it to other bookings.”
This festive season will come after a year of change for the Clouds & Soil team.
In March this year, three months after winning the SLTN Cocktail Bar of the Year Award, Bond No.9 closed after what Chris described as complications over the lease.
The closure would have an impact on sister venue Clouds & Soil in a number of ways.
“We had a period, suddenly, when we had two bars-worth of staff and only one bar to put them in,” said Chris.
“We had a few staff members that had to leave, basically, but we were quite lucky that there was no telling people they had to leave.
“It was a case of telling people if they had opportunities now would be the time to pursue them. A few people came forward and said they’d had offers of other stuff.”
In the adjustment period that followed Bond bar manager Byron Abbott joined Clouds & Soil, while Scott Brodowski, who had been executive chef for both venues, departed for catering firm GH Event Catering. This allowed junior chef Chris Telford to move up to become head chef of the Picardy Place venue, a move Chris said has worked out well for the business.
On the drinks side, the closure of Bond inspired a new section to the Clouds & Soil cocktail list.
The selection is now split into four categories: Delicates, which includes lighter, easy-drinking cocktails; Clockwork, incorporating “slightly more intricate” drinks; Puzzles, which boasts the bar’s most challenging, “left-field” creations: and Former Best Friends – a selection of popular drinks from Bond No.9.
But, influences aside, Clouds & Soil is a very different venue to its Leith-based predecessor, in a very different location.
“Bond was a destination; people were coming out of their way for the night and they’d be there for the evening,” said Chris.
“With here you’ve got the perk that you’ve got a lot more passing trade, but you’ve also got the downside that they’re transient, they’re moving.
“They may come for a drink but then they’ll move on somewhere else afterwards. So there’s a lot more passing trade, but then you’ve got to hook them in and keep them for the evening.”
As well as perfecting the drinks and food offer, Chris said the atmosphere of the venue is particularly important to retaining customers, and the main bar at Clouds & Soil now boasts a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights.
“If you make a relaxed place people will stick around,” said Chris.