Getting in the festival spirit

Event will put the spotlight on Edinburgh’s cocktail scene

Lauren Stewart and Andy Gemmell will organise the festival, held at the New Waverley site.
Lauren Stewart and Andy Gemmell will organise the festival, held at the New Waverley site.

EDINBURGH Festival goers will be able to celebrate the event’s 70th birthday this year with a cocktail in hand after creative agency The Drink Cabinet announced it would be throwing a dedicated cocktail festival for the duration of The Fringe.

In collaboration with Food + Flea Market, the Edinburgh Cocktail Festival will run from August 4 to 28 and be open from 12 noon to 10pm daily.

Taking place inside the New Waverley development just off the Royal Mile, the event will give wristband holders the chance to sample cocktails from an array of pop-up bars, take part in drinks masterclasses and listen to live performances from musicians and DJs.

The event is designed to show off the best of Edinburgh’s cocktail bars and Scotland’s buoyant drinks scene to the estimated 400,000 domestic and international visitors who descend on the capital for The Fringe.

In 2016, almost 2.5 million tickets were issued to over 50,000 performances so Andy Gemmell and Lauren Stewart, the directors of The Drink Cabinet, decided it was time to take advantage of the festival’s thirsty and captive audience.

We should be celebrating cocktails, especially when we get this influx of tourists.

“Edinburgh is obviously huge for cocktails,” said Lauren.

“Per capita, it’s probably got the most amount of high end cocktail bars for a city of its size.

“It has some amazing bars but there’s not that many drinks-orientated events at the Edinburgh Festival.

“There is nothing really consumer-led so our thought was that we should be celebrating cocktails, especially when we get this influx of tourists from around the world.”

Wristbands cost £15 and can be used throughout the entirety of the Fringe.

Lauren explained: “All wristband holders will receive discounted drinks in all our bars and they’ll also get to participate in free immersive experiences, like making their own drinks and learning about brands.

“Tanqueray, for instance, are going to be delivering a Tanqueray Gin Forest in which people will be able to forage herbs, spices and fruits and then flash infuse their own gin.

“Ketel One will also be hosting a Bloody Mary kitchen. This will be an opportunity to actually try and make a Bloody Mary to the consumer’s taste without using tomato juice so they’ll offer different alternatives.

“We will also have a Love Scotch pop-up. That will be about showcasing Scotch in a fun way [for example] you can drink Lagavulin 16 with Coke. You can mix Scotch so I think that will be interesting to see how consumers react to it.”

It is a heady time for partners Andy, a former global whisky ambassador for Bacardi, and Lauren, who has over 15 years experience in the hospitality and drinks industry, as they grow their Glasgow-based agency.

Lauren said: “For us it’s exciting. We’re still quite a new company. Andy and I started the company about two and a half years ago and already we have a staff of about 20 people.

“We’re probably the only business in Scotland that does what we do. We do everything from digital marketing to events. We’ve developed into a one-stop shop for drinks brands and the licensed trade.

“For us it’s great to be able to team up with people like Hal Prescott (of the Food + Flea Market) and the drinks brands we work with to create something totally new.”