The Pinnacle Guide

Panda & Sons

Edinburgh, UK

What appears to be a whimsical vintage-inspired bar is, in fact, a leading voice of Edinburgh’s cocktail culture, serving truly innovative drinks.

Reservations recommended
Walk-ins welcome
Not an accessible venue

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

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ENVIRONMENTAL ENDEAVOURS

Working with their local distributor Royal Mile Whiskies, Panda & Sons use returnable and reusable containers with as many suppliers as possible including EcoTotes and most of the Edinburgh based distilleries, which has reduced their glass waste significantly. The team works with ChangeWorks Recycling, who supply them with a quarterly carbon footprint report which also includes advice on how to reduce waste further.

DETAILS OF NOTE

When guests ask for the bill they will be asked in return if they would like the “Panda recommends” booklet. This has a selection of bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants that the team love. The venue truly wants its guests to not only have a great time at Pandas, but during their stay in Edinburgh as a whole. There is also a QR code they can scan, so they have a version of “Panda Recommends” on google maps.

The Pinnacle Guide

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Panda & Sons is a serious cocktail destination that excels in not taking itself too seriously. Hidden behind a barber’s facade the bar is welcoming and warm with lots of wooden features, tweed and an overall timeless vintage feel. This Scottish-centric, cosy atmosphere is yet another type of facade for Panda & Sons, who are not-so-secretly pioneers in developing innovative flavour techniques using sub zero temperatures.

Designed to not look new or on-trend, Panda & Sons feels like it could have been around for 100 years. The bar top is a beautiful Louis cube design, using a blend of rose wood and cedar, which was all hand laid, while the shelving behind is mahogany with classic style cabinets to house the bar’s spirits. Although open plan, the venue is divided into four clear spaces, each slightly different in design and colour scheme, but all complimenting each other. One space is more stand-out however, the room dubbed ‘Regina’ after one of the owner’s mothers. After helping with all the tweed seating, leather banquette seating and any other fabric requirements from the venue, she was gifted this space to decorate however she liked. It remains cohesive to those not in the know, but undeniably personable.  

Other fun details for guests to spot include a lego panda that used to tour with the Rolling Stones in the 80s and the vintage barber equipment stored in cabinets around the bar. 

While offering a wide range of cocktail styles, where Panda & Sons really stands out on a global footing is their freezing techniques used to transform drinks and flavours. They focus on two main methods – a historic technique called freeze-concentration (or cryo-concentration) which freezes the water out of the base ingredient to leave a more pure and concentrated form. They also refer to this as “freeze ripening” as this method mimics the process of ripening and makes fruits that may be out of season immediately more juicy. Their other technique is entirely their own and has been dubbed “sous pression” – a sub-zero alternative to sous vide. It harnesses the energy generated during the freezing process which results in smoother softer liquids. The team are always incredibly generous and transparent with this technique and it has been adopted by bars all around the world since they unveiled it in 2023. The staff are only too happy to discuss their methodology in detail but there is also a QR code in the menu to watch short video clips of the techniques.

For those seeking a less educational visit, the drinks are also laid out much more simply – and always extremely well-crafted and the atmosphere snug and lively – no prior teachings required to enjoy. On weekends DJs play and on week nights a curated playlist of disco and funk keeps Panda & Sons vibrant and playful. 

Outside of service – the long-standing team spend much of their free time together too – and the turnover of staff is incredibly low. To nurture this – every month they sit down to eat “family style” and each person is invited to bring a dish to share, while they have an open, casual discussion about all things work-related while enjoying some delicious home cooked food. 

"The menu is incredibly unique and utilised methods that I’ve not experienced elsewhere. Incredibly easy to navigate with very informative descriptions of each drink that were both interesting for the regular guest and geeky for the cocktail enthusiast. Every element seemed to have been taken into consideration."

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