How a 170-Year-Old Restored Victorian Coaching Inn Became the Home to One of the Best Bars in the World

Deep in the Highlands of Scotland, a world-class cocktail bar awaits.

<p>Courtesy of The Fife Arms</p>

Courtesy of The Fife Arms

Cities like New York, London, and Mexico City are regularly celebrated for their burgeoning cocktail scenes with both new and classic institutions serving up impressive tipples that highlight ingenuity and craftsmanship. But far from the spotlight nearly 100 miles north of Edinburgh, Scotland, travelers will find an exceptionally impressive cocktail bar that rivals some of the best around the world.

Situated in the heart of Cairngorms National Park, about a three-hour drive north of Edinburgh, Elsa’s Bar offers a fun menu in a metropolitan space. Housed in the famed Fife Arms hotel in Braemar, Scotland, the space pulls inspiration from late fashion designer and former part-time resident Elsa Schiaparelli, widely known for her surreal designs and rivalry with Coco Chanel. The space blends the historic charm of the hotel with contemporary decor incorporating muted touches of pink, from the bar stools to the menus, as a nod to Schiaparelli whose favorite color was pink. The bar and shelving are Victorian-era architectural details that highlight the history of the space, and modern touches were brought in with suede chairs and waterfall-esque light fixtures that double as artwork. At the center of the room, there’s a massive disco ball that brings an ease and sense of playfulness to the space.

In 2018, the hotel underwent a significant renovation to restore the historic property and make it a destination worth seeking out. The area is well known as a spirits haven, with around 140 distilleries spread throughout the Highlands, and Fife Arms brings a unique opportunity to travelers who are in need of luxury accommodations with equally grand amenities including a whisky library with hundreds of rare bottles, catered picnics in the wild, and of course, cocktails at Elsa’s Bar.

The cocktails highlight Scottish spirits with infusions, liqueurs, and bitters that are created in house. But what makes Elsa’s so unique is that the team executes their expertise with boundary-pushing cocktails — like the Skeleton Dress, which includes bone marrow-infused Hennessy vs with miso cream, cacao blanc, and a dark chocolate tuile garnish — coupled with top-notch hospitality. This bar isn’t just a good option for the area but one that stands out among some of the best bars around the world. The space is intimate, the drinks are unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else, and the hospitality is next-level.

The space offers seating for two at the bar and a scattering of small tables around the room that could accommodate around a dozen at most. It’s the type of place where you spend a few hours in the evening, rather than stop in for a quick drink before heading onto the next spot — and that’s exactly how the team wants it to be, for guests to feel comfortable in the space and to sample highly crafted drinks with some of Scotland’s best products.

So while the Highlands may be synonymous with whisky tours and tastings, a stop at Elsa’s Bar for a classic cocktail (or one with a twist) is a must if you’re ever in the area.

Global Tastemakers is a celebration of the best culinary destinations in the U.S. and abroad. We asked more than 180 food and travel journalists to vote on their favorites, including restaurants and bars, cities, hotels, airports, airlines, and cruises. We then entrusted those results to an expert panel of judges to determine each category’s winners. In many categories, we’ve included a judge’s pick, hand-selected by our expert panel, to shout out more culinary destinations we don’t want our readers to miss. See all the winners at

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