Chancho, Edinburgh

Edinburgh cocktail aces Hey Palu head to Leith with the excellent agave-focused bar, Chancho

Feature by Peter Simpson | 27 May 2024
  • Chancho

Chancho is the latest in a spate of Mexican-inflected openings across Scotland. All of a sudden, tacos seem to be lurking around every corner, which feels like a combination of cost-of-living reaction and a non-coordinated attempt to backfill gaps in the food scene. Cozzy livs because you can get decent money for tacos but they’re often small and use a lot of repeat ingredients; non-coordinated because if this was coordinated, you’d surely want to give everyone a bit of downtime between all the birria-comparing.

Stepping into the breach are the folk behind the excellent Edinburgh cocktail bar Hey Palu, one of the top cocktail bars in the country, with a new mezcal and tequila-first cocktail spot. It’s the hottest day of the year as we wander down by The Shore, and while the day is slowly turning to night the temperature is stubbornly refusing to drop. It is roasting; ideal tequila-drinking conditions.

Outside, Chancho offers a flash of bright yellow, and a huge window coated in cactus-inspired decals. Inside, it’s working with a similar vibe to its city centre sibling. Unfussy wooden tables, a comfy leather bench down one wall and exposed brick down the other. Flashes of colour and greenery, an enormous yellow neon extolling the word ‘YUZU’; it’s your classic low-lit, trendy but respectful bar fit-out.

Photograph of a spicy mezcal paloma at Chancho. A pink glass with a spiced rim and a wedge of lemon.
Spicy Mezcal Paloma. Image: Chancho.

As for the drinks, it’s a selection of agave-based cocktails. These aren’t showy or overblown drinks – they look nice, but there’s no dramatic garnishes or smoke domes or random stuff attached with clothes pegs. What they do have is flavour, and complexity. The Pastello (£10.50) is a sweet and surprisingly refreshing mix of tequila, mezcal, apricot and mango. It’s light, sugary without being too syrupy, and the gigantic ice cube in the glass keeps everything nice and chill. The Picante (£10.50) is… well, it’s picante. Chilli, lime, and a nice pastel-pink colour to lull you into a false sense of security before the spice catches you out.

At the stronger end of the scale, the Tequila Martini (£10.50) is a punchy, crystal clear example of the form, the condensation glistening in the light. We cannot stress this enough: it is a very warm day. The hit of the night is the Mezcaloni (£11), a bitter, zingy, fire engine-red drink with another one of those mega ice cubes, and garnished with the most fragrant piece of lemon we’ve sniffed in ages. Is it dehydrated? Is it some kind of olfactory illusion, like squinting at a magic eye picture but for your nose? Is it just a really good lemon? Whatever it is, it’s lovely, while the drink itself is a well-rounded sipper with a real kick.

There’s something about Chancho that gives it a real holiday vibe. That could be the heat – these ice cubes are holding up miraculously, but after a day out in some actual sunshine it feels like we might burst into flames – or it could be the rare focus on tequilas and mezcals rather than more expected spirits. It could be the decor, or it could even be that weirdly wide continental pavement outside. Bars in Edinburgh don’t have standing room outside; we all just huddle in the doorway! Whatever it is, Chancho has captured a bit of sunshine in this corner of Leith... the paint job! Maybe that’s what it is! Head down and see what you reckon – no need to wait for the next mini-heatwave.

Chancho, 7 Bernard St, Edinburgh; Tue-Thu 5-11.30pm, Fri 5pm-1am, Sat 4pm-1am