The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with more than 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
It's been said in certain circles that Scots know how to lift a few, with a particular love of ales, stouts, and whiskey. Well, when in Scotland do as the Scots do.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe is more than ready to help you get your drink on before, after, and even during its many shows. If raising a glass and imbibing some fine Scottish liquor is on your list, check out how to drink your way through Edinburgh.
One of the best parts of Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the festivities extend way beyond the actual performances. If a venue isn't itself a bar, there will almost assuredly be a bar (if not multiple bars) assembled pop-up style as part of the venue. And often you can get food, too. You're in Scotland, so these spots (appropriately) tend to focus on beer, but there will almost always be a selection of wines and other spirits available, as well. Some venues even have special pop-ups that offer more specialized cocktails—for instance, head to Summerhall for a delicious frozen margarita.
It's brilliant programming, because it eliminates the annoyance of having an awkward amount of time between shows, not enough to go home but too much to go to the next show. Either stick around where you are, or head to your next venue. You will be fully wined and dined no matter what you pick.
Almost all of these venues are also more than happy for you to get a drink to take inside to the actual performance, too. After all, a rowdy, happy audience is kind of perfect for most of the shows that do well at Fringe!
Getting a drink before you go to your show isn't the only way to drink during a performance. Sometimes drinking is the performance. If you set your filter to "Events" when looking at Fringe offerings, you'll find lots of "shows" that are more experiences than plays or comedy acts, and several of them are whisky or wine tastings. Best of all, these experiences are priced just as inexpensively as the other Fringe shows and included drinks—a real win-win.
I attended Drag Queen Wine Tasting, a wildly entertaining event hosted twice daily by Scottish drag queen Vanity Von Glow at Edinburgh's DoubleTree. Von Glow kept everyone entertained with her devilish sense of humor, but this event took things a step further with a real sommelier on hand to actually teach you something about the wine you're drinking. Fun and educational! And don't worry, sommelier Beth Brickenden is herself quite fun to spend time with, making this hour-long experience consistently popular with Fringe audiences. And towards the end of the festival, they also did a Drag Queen Whisky Tasting, too!
Whisky, Whisky, Whisky
If you're a whisky connoisseur, Edinburgh is your town. Scotland prides itself on its whiskies, many of them made locally in small batches. In other words, you will have access to stuff you absolutely can not find in the States. Though you can scarcely through a rock without hitting a shop advertising bespoke Scottish whisky, one I particular enjoyed was The Whisky Shop on Victoria Street, Edinburgh's most famous shopping district. Along with lots of pre-bottled selections, this shop will let you taste some more special distillations and then pour them into your own bottle.
Lots of restaurants will also do whisky tastings via whisky flights, a great way to taste a variety of what Edinburgh has to offer—and get a nice little buzz going. Whiski, which you can find all over Edinburgh, has several different flight variants. You can sample the staff's favorites, their most popular whiskeys, or whiskeys from particular regions, among other themes. They've also got a menu of delicious Scottish pub fare like fish and chips and scotch pies to complete your authentically Edinburgh experience.
We've heard tell that some Playbill readers, and maybe even one or two Edinburgh Fringe-attending theatre lovers, might count themselves as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or as one of its allies. If that happens to describe you, you'll be pleased to know that Edinburgh has an active and very friendly gay scene. My favorite spot was a gay pub called The Regent, a quiet and welcoming place to take in a pint and chat with friends. For those wanting something closer to an NYC-style bar, you can go to CC Blooms or Planet Bar & Kitchen in New Town, practically next door to each other.
Best of all, all of these spots are far less fixated on catering to specifically gay men than you might be used to seeing at U.S. gay bars. In fact, it's totally normal to see all gender and sexual identities, including—gasp!—straight people, enjoying an evening at these night spots. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is having a great time!