I spend a lot of time in Edinburgh and much of my time is spent wracking my brains for a good spot for a post-Festival-show drink. Over Hogmanay, I visited the city for five days and, again, had the same problem. I used to love the City Café for its bohemian vibe, but then it turned into a kind of retro-American diner. I like Bramble, which does fantastic and creative cocktails, but it’s always heaving. But this time I happily came upon a new drinking den: Nightcap, which I’d somehow not noticed before despite its being right next to the comedy venue I’ve been to more than any other, The Stand.
My friends and I were drawn into the basement space by a charming little window nook and after our initial discovery, we went back every night until we left the city – and usually until closing time at 3am. It’s a true hidden gem; while these days a Google Maps search seems to suggest that every single bar is “cosy, with great cocktails”, Nightcap genuinely is. It might look small, but it is in fact spread out over two floors – a lower ground floor and a basement. You can usually get a table in the latter, but most of them are in their own rooms, so I prefer the atmosphere in the main bar. And even when it’s busy, it doesn’t feel hectic, because it only admits guests if they have a seat or stool for them (and you can, indeed, book).
The lighting is soft and the music is good (classic hip-hop), as are the cocktails on the regularly changing menu – on my visit, I was particularly taken with the Damn Fine Coffee, made with crème de cacao, Fernet Branca, walnut bitters, armagnac and almond foam. All the classic examples of mixology you’d expect are readily available, as well as regular seasonal experiments.