The grand tour hits Edinburgh

International cocktail event moves outside US for first time

THE Edinburgh cocktail scene stole a march on its counterparts across Europe last month when it was announced that the city would host the first European iteration of bartending event Tales on Tour.

• McCluskey (far left) and Aikman (far right) at the launch event.

The four-day festival (April 1 to April 4), which is a smaller version of the annual Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans, will include seminars on spirits and cocktails during the day and a range of drinks-related events open to the public in the evenings.
Edinburgh’s selection is a “vote of confidence” in the city’s bar scene, according to operator Mike Aikman, who runs three bars in the city, and, along with friend and fellow bar operator Stuart McCluskey of The Bon Vivant, was instrumental in the event coming to Scotland.
The pair, who grew up together in Dalgety Bay, have remained friends while establishing their respective bar businesses. McCluskey’s venues include The Bon Vivant and El Cartel on Thistle Street and Devil’s Advocate on Advocate’s Close, while Aikman and business partner Jason Scott run Bramble and Lucky Liquor Co on Queen Street and The Last Word Saloon on Stephen Street.
“We’ve been over at Tales of the Cocktail several times, both myself and Stuart, and had been lucky enough to be nominated for awards,” Aikman told SLTN.
“So we’d met the founders then, and the news on the grapevine was that Edinburgh was being considered as the host city for Tales on Tour, so we offered to show them around and put our best foot forward – show them all the best sites in Edinburgh and things like that.
“So I guess we were involved in that respect.
“We think it’s fantastic, not only for Edinburgh, but Scotland and Europe.”
Speaking at the launch of Tales on Tour Edinburgh, Tales co-founder Ann Tuennerman said the purpose of the tour is “to give people a taste of New Orleans in another city”.
“We have some amazing seminars lined up,” she said.
“We have a really great line-up of people we’re bringing to Edinburgh and some great local people too.”
The four days of events will do more than shine a spotlight on Edinburgh’s bartending scene, however.
McCluskey said having Tales on Tour in Edinburgh will hopefully inspire Scotland’s young and up-and-coming bartenders.
“You can see the excitement level among the bartenders – particularly the younger guys,” he said.
“And ultimately that’s what it’s all about: engaging with those guys, getting them exposed to some of the biggest names in the business and inspiring them to take it further.
“That’s the really exciting part for us.”
Aikman agreed, adding that he hoped the “young crowd” in Scotland would find themselves as inspired as he and McCluskey had been in New Orleans.
“What we’re trying to do in our venues is really try and make this more of a profession and encourage people to take it seriously, and so it’s kind of our role to help make that happen,” he said.
“This will, hopefully, do that.
“It will get them exposure, bring people here, they’ll be able to learn more, and hopefully it’ll create more opportunities for them.”