Orchid Aberdeen's New Winter Cocktail Preview Evening

I was invited to Orchid Cocktail Lounge in Aberdeen for a preview of their new Winter Cocktail menu last month, and being a fan of a good cocktail who was I to say no? I had never been to Orchid, which has been operating since 2009, it is situated nicely behind Union Street on Langstane Place.

When you enter you get that lovely walking into a dark, chilled bar vibe that can be so hard to find (many pubs in Scotland are preternaturally brightly lit, which I have never understood. But then if you go to a more clubby place, you can’t hear yourself think let alone speak...yes, I am old, and long past this stage!).

Orchid is both stylish and relaxed feeling, and is one of the few late night bars in Aberdeen. I can see why they were shortlisted in a recent national competition to win best late night/cocktail bar in Scotland (they narrowly missed out but their g.m. Nick did win 2016 mixologist of the year).

This was a large blogging event, the biggest I have seen yet, and we were divided into three groups to try out the new cocktails, learn a little about gin with a tasting from local gin masters Porter’s Gin, and make our very own bespoke cocktails with a lesson from one of Orchid’s bartenders.

Our group was led straight to the gin tasting. I fully admit I had never heard of gin tastings. Now, I like a nice gin and tonic, Tanqueray being my favourite. But the taste of gin on its own is not traditionally nice, so I was a tiny bit dubious.

Porter’s ambassador Sean talked us through the history of gin (briefly but in excellent detail!), as we sampled examples of the very first types of gin, from Jenever to Old Tom’s to the modern Porter’s. Now, you can trust me when I say early gin tasted like moonshine (ok so I have never tasted moonshine, but use your imagination...very paint stripper-esque!). The Old Tom's was much easier on the palate although still not exactly smooth.

We then heard about the Porter’s Gin story, which is frankly an amazing success story – it is the first gin to be distilled in Aberdeen in over a hundred years. Its creators spent a good while researching and trying out different recipes. And what they eventually came up with is…amazing. It is clean and fresh and lovely, with on my palate no discernible “ginny” aftertaste. This is damn fine gin, people! (sorry, I am way too excited for the Twin Peaks reboot!). According to Porter's it is “made using 12 botanicals including pink peppercorn, orris root, Buddha's hand and orange, this gin has prominent notes of juniper and citrus.”

The Buddha’s hand is an unusually shaped citrus fruit (it looks like a gnarled yellow hand…reminds me of Mr. Burns in the Simpsons!). Found most commonly in the Far East, it’s unique delicate flavour was “the one” for the Porter’s Gin creators (one of whom also owns Orchid and other local establishments), and contribute to making it one of, if not the most palatable gin I have tried.

I can see why it has quickly won many awards, including Best London Dry Gin  at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, along with unsolicited rave reviews in the likes of Vogue. It has been snapped up by local bars and specialist retailers, and hopefully it will be more widely available soon. At the moment you can buy it online at TheWhiskey Exchange as well as at local Scottish retailers, and also at Orchid.

Next up we sampled three of Orchid’s new winter cocktails, explained by bar manager/Orchid mixologist Nick, which launch sometime later this month. Along with the jazzy new cocktails, the bar is running a fun local contest where each time you try a new cocktail (6 in total), you get a badge with a clue to go on a sort of local treasure hunt to the different corresponding spots in Aberdeen.

If you take a selfie and collect them all you are entered into a competition with a chance of your name appearing on their next menu.

(L to r) Religious Robbery, Beerlini, and Religious Robbery cocktails!

Anyway, first up with the new cocktail tasting was the Religious Robbery cocktail. The name is a reference to a bar called Worship Street Whistling Shop in London, from where Nick got his inspiration after tasting a similar drink. The idea behind the drink is to create a Gin Martini / Pina Colada. 

It consists of:
Porter's Gin, a spiced pineapple syrup, coconut juice and a dash of Dr Adam Elmegirab's Teapot Bitters.

My impressions: I love anything pineapple, so my tastebuds were piqued straight away, and I loved the quirky presentation. This is a fruity cocktail for grown ups, and not as sweet as I am used to when I hear “pineapple and coconut”. It was still utterly moreish though.

Honey Rider was the second drink we tried, it is an Old Fashioned style drink. It is named after the first ever Bond girl, of the same name.

Mango infused rum, grapefruit oleo saccharum and Dr Adam Elmegirab's Orinoco Bitters. 

My thoughts: I felt like this drink looked a bit masculine/Bond-esque for sure so I wasn’t sure I would like it, but I really liked the balance of the orinocco bitters and the zing of the grapefruit a lot. Intense but very palatable indeed.

The final drink was a twist on a Bellini, a so called “Beerlini”, using beer instead of Prosecco. 

Grapefruit cordial, salted Campari and topped with lager.

Very delicate and easy to drink, a bit like a sophisticated shandy with a kick. Also vaguely reminded me of a Long Island Iced Tea, perhaps because of the presentation, but also because as you are drinking it you think “Mm delicious, I can drink these all night!” (Not advisable with Long Island Iced Teas, as I learned the hard way  in college ;-)

After we had taken several sips of all of these (hic), we moseyed on over to the bar for a cocktail making session with Orchid bartender Matt. Matt is a whirling dervish of a bartender and most of my pictures of him came out blurry, a bit like trying to photograph the Road Runner!

He asked us if we'd ever had daiquiris, and like many of the women my daiquiri experience has mostly been of the frozen variety...pleb that I am! Turns out classic daiquiris, made with egg whites, are absurdly delicous. I also enjoyed the classic daiquiri he made a lot, I would happily just drink that!

The Pink Orchid is Orchid's signature house cocktail. This is the only drink that has been on every menu since Orchid opened in 2009. 

Pink Orchid cocktail, Orchid Aberdeen

Vanilla Vodka, Raspberry Liqueur, Cranberry Juice, Lime Juice, Sugar Syrup and Egg White.

A "pink" anything would not normally be my first choice on a cocktail menu, but this cocktail is deeply delicious -sweet yet mellow, with just a hint of zing from the berry and lime elements, I can see why it is a bar signature/mainstay. I could go for one right now actually!...

Which reminds me -Orchid is now teaming up with deliveroo to deliver its delicious cocktails straight to your door - kind of tempting on these cold dark nights, I would think!

Only three of our group got to make the cocktail but can I be honest? I am a terrible bartender (as I learned from my last cocktail lesson!) so I wasn't exactly heartbroken/was more than happy to let the other bloggers do the heavy cocktail shaking! Daiquiris are quite an art form and they all did a a great job!

Iga are you auditioning for the new Cocktail sequel? ;-)

Wow, that's a lot of cocktails, you might be thinking....have we lost count yet? Are we ok to walk home/not hail a taxi? ;-)

But Orchid was not finished wow'ing us, they decided to run a competition amongst the bloggers to design our very own cocktail!

We were given a choice of liqueurs and our group went for the avant garde Violet (just saying, we came to play!). We used Porter's gin, Violet liqueur, agave syrup and lemon juice, resulting in a candy coated smooth drink which was dubbed Beuregard Sours after Violet Beuregard from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (partly my idea, I just needed a little help remembering the character's name! ;-0). For some inconceivable reason we didn't win - I am not a sore loser but I still think our drink was the best/ahead of its time perhaps! (not having tasted any of the others, whatever! ;-).

We were given some very yummy charcuterie and cheese and breads and olives to help line our stomachs, apologies none of my pictures came out as it was really dark inside.

I really enjoyed this event, and I will certainly be returning to sample some of the other new winter cocktails on the menu. I definitely recommend a visit to Orchid on your next night out, it strikes a nice balance of being friendly and low key yet (unoppressively) hip, and the expertly mixed cocktails are of course the main attraction!

* All food and drink were gratis, all opinions very much my own! ;-)


  1. Dang girl, I'm super envious! I'm so super happy that there's been a cocktail Renaissance going on, totally my jam :)

    1. Ha, I completely admit going out for cocktails is a novelty to me here. Anything beyond "Vodka lemonade" at a lot of pubs here (well the ones we frequent!)is still considered fancy pants. ;-)

  2. Looks like a great evening, I love a few fancy cocktails! The glamour!

    1. Ha, indeed! Well HOPEFULLY we can share a cocktail together at some point in London! ;-)