My favorite Scottish bar, The Pop Up Geeks have turned their premises into something I’ve longed for since they opened their doors in Edinburgh almost 3 years ago.. Star Wars
Every 3 or 4 months The Pop Up Geeks change it up and reinvent their theme to pay homage to a different popular culture property. Just to be perfectly clear, they are not associated with any IP they’ve paid homage too. They’re geeks and fans like you and me only The Pop Up Geeks show their love by deep dive researching all forms of medium connected to their next chosen idea to produce a deliciously themed cocktail menu. Each drink has a thought out backstory and reason for being served in a surrounding that transports and immerses your senses.
My first experience was their Game of Thrones inspired ‘Blood & Wine’ bar in March 2017. Since then they’ve gone on to create drinks paying homage to The Walking Dead as ‘Survive,’ Stranger Things as ‘The Upside Down,’ Harry Potter as ‘Perilous Potions,’ The Lord of the Rings as ‘There and Back Again’, the video game Fallout as ‘Vault 131’, fairy tail stories as ‘Once Upon a Time’. Then to coincide with The Game of Thrones finale earlier this year they brought back ‘Blood & Wine’ and similarly ‘The Upside Down’ returned when Stranger Things season 3 dropped on Netflix. This just goes to show that owners, Rachael Carpenter and Linden Wilkinson, are not only switched on to pop culture and creating tasty drinks, they’re business savvy too.
With The Mandalorian and Jedi: Fallen Order out now and The Rise Of Skywalker on the horizon in December it makes perfect sense for them to now turn their bar into a Star Wars themed Death Star called ‘Cantina’ until February next year.
I went to Edinburgh 3 times recently to check out how they have decorated the bar and drink all the Star Wars cocktails on their menu and I’m delighted to say they’ve really put a lot of effort into the drinks and theme. If you’re arriving into Edinburgh Waverley train station its only a two minute walk to Arch 14,27 E Market St, Edinburgh, EH8 8FS.
As I walked into the bar the first thing I noticed was the art on the walls. To my left was a huge mural of Palpatine’s Death Star II window from Return of the Jedi between two lit up Death Star wall panels.
So yeah, they really let their crafty geek side show on creating an Imperial battle station environment to sit in.
To set the mood they’ve created a playlist filled with funky 70’s Star Wars inspired jizz tunes that creates an ambiance vibe perfectly suited for the surroundings of what you’d expect to hear in the outer rims. You might even recognize a song or two by Galaxy’s Edge’s DJ R-3X.
After perusing the 13 cocktail menu that’s divided into ‘Kyber Highballs’ and ‘Legends’ on my first visit I knew that I’d need to come back a few times to be able to drink them all.
And as luck would have it C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, popped in with his wife Christine to relive the Cantina scene while I was there on my third night!
The Kyber Highballs selection consists of 6 different cocktails inspired by lightsabers. I took notes as I was drinking them and the one word that I jotted down for all the highballs was “refreshing.” I could quite easily enjoy any of the Kyber Highballs on a relaxing sunny Sunday afternoon. In saying that, this was a freezing cold winters night and I still enjoyed them all!
I sat down with manager and über Star Wars geek, Nick Gianakakis, and he talked me through the ingredients and reasons for each drink.
Blue: El Gobernador Pisco, Blue Curacoa, citrus & tonic. For one who uses the Force on a more physical level. “Blue kyber represents the colour of lightsabers that Jedi guardians built. The tonic gives it the vitality that the Jedi would need for battles. Pisco is considered a healthy drink, so the blue highball represents vitality and strength to go on and defeat the dark side.”
Green: Sweetdram Escubac, Midouri melon, electric bitters & citric apple. For one who prefers to reflect on the mysteries of the Force. “Green kyber represents Jedi councilors as they’d be more in tune with the Force. When you think of the Force you think of its energy. The tartness of the drink comes from the citrus apple and electric bitters that gives it a zing, you feel alive so when you taste the green kyber and feel empowered by it.”
Yellow: Ceylon Arrak, Madagascan vanilla & cloudy lemonade. For one who honed their skills in a balance of combat and scholarly pursuits. “Yellow kyber is more based on the spirits that are included in it. Ceylon Arrack is a coconut palm fermented spirit which comes from the area of where the original term assassin comes from. When you look at the yellow kyber in Star Wars it’s used in espionage in seeking out the dark side to illuminate it by Jedi Temple guardians who are considered ancient like the drink Ceylon Arrack itself.
Purple: Homemade Peated Whisky, Raspberry liqueur & cranberry soda. For one who walks the fine line between the light and the dark. “Purple kyber is one of our bestselling. Purple is linked to people that have just stepped over the line between the light and dark side of the Force like Mace Windu who used the other persons aggression against them. We have the light sweet seductive raspberry with the smokey whisky which we think you’d smell that smoke in the heat of battle.”
Black: Amaro Montenegro, Ruby Port, orange oils & dandelion & burdock. For one whose weapon is ancient, unique and a symbol of power. “Black kyber is unique. There’s only one black saber in legends and canon that was used by the Mandalorians. We’ve included the dandelion & burdock because you don’t get a lot of people drinking that these days. It’s very rare and unique.”
Red: Rubis Chocolate Wine, Campari & rhubarb soda. For one whose connection to their weapon is clouded by fear and hate. Red kyber is the symbol of the dark side. The whole point of the dark side is that it’s seductive. When you taste this particular kyber it’s a very bitter drink but it’s really moreish. The rhubarb is quite tart combined with chocolate wine with bitter Campari. When you’re drinking it you feel like need more, just like the dark side.”
Otoh Gunga: (light, tropical, refreshing) Watermelon Infused Portobello Road Gin, Lychee Bubbles, Nori Seaweed, citrus & soda. Hesa built the beautiful city of Otoh Gunga, and long it remained a symbol of peace between the Gungans. “For Legends we went a little more funky. For Otoh Gunga we focused on bubbles and a seaside flavour. The watermelon infused gin gives it light note with boba bubbles at the bottom, seaweed sits on the outside of the glass and the soda gives it a surf feel which works really well with Otoh Gunga being an underwater city.”
The Chosen One: (crisp, sweet, fruity) Boutique-y Moonshot Gin, Akashi Tai Yuzu Sake, Strawberry, sesame & clarified milk punch. A chosen one shall come, born of no father, and through him ultimate balance in the Force be restored. “The chosen one utilities moonshot gin from Boutique-y company which has been to the outer reaches of space. (me: um, what?!?) Their ingredients are distilled and sent up to the edge of space and brought back down again for a real crisp clear flavor. Young Anakin was always looking wanting to escape Tatooine and looking to the stars, but also wanted to return. There’s Japanese sake in it and it Japanese culture you have the Samurai whom the Jedi were originally based on.”
Exile: (tart, nutty, slightly savory) Velho Barreiro Cachaca, Frangelico Hazelnut, kiwi, lime & olive. Strong this planet is with the Force, it is one of the purest places in the Galaxy. “It’s a combination of ingredients that sound like they should not work together. You’ve got kiwi, hazelnut and cachaca with olive that gives it a savory note like if you are on Dagobah. It comes with a bed of moss on the side to push that swampland feel.”
Crimson Dawn: (dark, complex, spicy) Don Q Spiced Rum, reduced cherry & blueberry shrub, homemade falernum & cranberry. Once you’re part of Crimson Dawn, you can’t leave. “Based on prequel fan favorite Darth Maul, who has so many complex emotions going on inside him, when you take a sip of this drink it’s smooth, then spicy, then soft, then spicy again. There’s so many different layers to it.”
The Dark Temple: (zingy, peppery, warming) Coffee & Black Pepper Infused Cargo Cult Banana Rum, sour cherry, marmalade & lemon. A place of worship for some. To others, an engine of destruction. “Inspired by Korriban the Sith home world, it’s a hot, dry and dusty planet. So we’ve taken that and put it into a drink where we infuse banana rum with coffee and black pepper so you’ve got that spicy, peppery side combined with the alluring sweet banana. So the idea was if you were to visit Korriban and go to a Sith Temple you’d smell an intoxicating aroma, much like the red saber, that seduces you.”
Ne’tra Gal: (rich, honeyed, chocolaty) Marquis Armagnac, Cocchi Americano, stout reduction & apple. War is the Mandalorian way if life. “Modeled on the Mandalorian black ale. In legends it’s described as sweet almost spicy. Quite heavy, quite boozy. We combine the armagnac with americano which is quite sweet and dry, the stout we use has chocolate and vanilla which gives it the sweet and spicy note that we’re looking for, then we reduce that down and round it out with sugar so when you’re drinking it you feel empowered and ready to track down your bounty.”
Bantha Milk: (smokey, tropical, creamy) Ben Riach Peated Whisky, Caribbean pineapple, rice milk & spirulina. Tea wouldn’t be my first choice, no. I prefer the harder stuff. Y’now, like blue milk. “Blue milk is a nourishment drink. We took the idea of like a hot toddy but cold. Using a peated whisky you get the smokey ness coming through, then combined with the pineapple you get the exotic twist. We added some lime to draw out the flavors. We wanted to move away from using blue food dye so we used spirulina, which is used a lot in smoothies and gives it blue colour. We used rice milk which harkens that Jedi-Samurai feel. So you would drink it as nutritious nourishment and it would make you feel ready to start your day on Tatooine.”
So if you’re in Edinburgh over the next few months and would like to escape to a Galaxy Far, Far Away click here to make reservations, and if you go in Star Wars cosplay you’ll get 10% off your drinks.