Hamish Smith catches up with Iain McPherson on the all-new Edinburgh Bar Show, which takes place 8-10 April

Iain, you’ve been making moves. Tell us about the Edinburgh Bar Show

Edinburgh hasn’t seen an on-trade bar show of any capacity for quite some time, especially one with national and international appeal. The cocktail bar scene is incredible here, the city is stunning and steeped in so much history and it’s easy to get around too. Scotland has so much high-quality spirit in abundance, not just Scotch. So we see this as the perfect mix of ingredients to create a successful bar show.

One of the key elements of EBS that we are really proud of is all the education will be free. All you need to do is register (edinburghbarshow.co.uk). Imagine a bar show with a Scottish slant that offers free education, distillery visits, brand experiences, wellness, guest shift and parties. That’s what EBS is all about.

You’re working alongside Jamie Faulds and Gary Anderson (pictured left and centre of image) from Edinburgh Cocktail Week – how did the relationship come about and what are your roles with EBS?

I’ve known and respected Jamie and Gary for a very long time. Seeing how they’ve grown Edinburgh Cocktail Week, which is their consumer event, to where it is now is impressive. So I knew that they would be the ideal partners to work with in creating an annual on-trade-only bar show here. We have our different skill sets, but one thing we do have in common is we are all workaholics (in a good way). I believe this is what makes us work really well as a team. It really has been a pleasure working on this project with them.

Could you give us some of your personal highlights in terms of educational talks, brand activations, guest shifts and parties?

To name but a few, we have Hampus Thunholm from Röda Huset talking about sustainability; Erik Lorincz from Kwant and a representative from Red Light speaking about Resilience in Hospitality, covering topics that really need to be discussed in our industry. Lots more seminars will be confirmed running up to the show. Also, big shout out to The Voodoo Rooms for allowing us to use their venue as the main hub where all the seminars will be held. It’s also a very sentimental venue to me, as I started my bartending career there.

You seem to have already secured support from brands, but how many guests are you expecting in the show’s first year?

We are really trying to be conservative with our expectations. Especially as its our first year, we don’t have any previous data to look back on, but we hope to get at least 1,000 hospitality folk attending EBS. Edinburgh is also a destination city, so we see it as a lovely wee getaway for the greater UK bar community and further afield. They can find discounted accommodation options on our website too. 

Which of the key venues and bartenders are involved? Will it be a real industrywide effort?

We are encouraging all Edinburgh bars to host one guest shift, so we can get more bars involved and really make it city wide. The other benefit of this one guest shift idea is on-trade visitors to our city can see what each bar is actually like and try their cocktails too. As opposed to just guest shifts every night. I think it’s good to have that balance, to showcase local and international bars at a bar show.

There seems to be a movement to smaller bar shows in more manageably sized cities. Which shows have you taken inspiration from?

I think the smaller bar shows are able to maintain a warm energy and personality that some of the bigger shows can’t achieve. That being said, there are always pros and cons to big or small bar shows. I helped organise Tales on Tour when it was in Edinburgh, back in 2017 and 2018. I will never forget the great energy it generated with a lovely blend of daytime and night-time activities. It really oozed community, and I think now with a completely new generation coming through, EBS can be the platform to bring people together.