Dance with the devil: Diablo Loco in Edinburgh

Diablo Loco Chris Watts main

Signature Pub Group has created a new destination in Edinburgh for tequila and mezcal. Words by Mark Ludmon. Pictures by Chris Watt

The tequila and mezcal are flowing on Edinburgh’s Southside at the latest bar from Signature Pub Group. Clerk’s Bar – part of the package the company bought from Maclay Group in 2016 – has been transformed into Diablo Loco, described as a “tequila-soaked, mezcal-dripping party den”. With its name meaning “crazy devil”, it is a destination not just for agave spirits and Mexican food but also Mexican-inspired live entertainment every day, with the party going on till 1am at weekends and midnight the rest of the week.

Signature has again worked with leading hospitality design company Tibbatts Abel to create a concept based around the idea of a fun and casual Mexican cantina. Mexican-style patterns are used throughout in the fabrics as well as the murals created by Edinburgh-based artist Lynsey Jean Henderson. “Rag-rolled walls in neutral colours create a rustic ‘lived-in’ feel with added punchy colours and metallics used in the murals,” points out senior designer Kendall Field. “The lighting is key to creating a moody den-like vibe. Neon lighting with tequila- and Mexican-related slogans and bric-à-brac such as piñatas, Mexican hats, candy skulls and tequila wheels adorn the walls and ceiling, creating an eclectic buzz.”

Diablo Loco Chris Watts skull

One of the key spaces is its basement party den, Infierno, which can be hired out, with room for up to 70 people. Party suggestions include tequila or cocktail master classes and even a Mexican dress-up party. “As a private area and home to various music-led events at the weekend, it will be a unique space for exclusive events and all-round revelry,” explains general manager Stuart Shearer.

The food menu aims to combine Mexican dishes, with a Scottish “infusion” wherever possible. “We are truly passionate about traditional Mexican fare and use exceptional, traditional ingredients that we source locally to keep Scottish provenance at the heart of Diablo Loco,” Stuart says. Small plates, or “Little Cravings”, range from pork belly croquettes and crispy fried chilli wings to a tequila-flamed cheese fondue – Queso Flameado – with chorizo ragout and corn chips and a dish of crispy chicharrón pork puffs with guacamole, pomegranate and sheep’s milk cheese.

Diablo Loco Chris Watts cocktail

Tacos are the essential party fuel, with a tasty selection of fillings such as Yukatan-style chicken, chilli beef, Corona-battered fish, pulled pork shoulder and crispy avocado. For bigger appetites, mains include chargrilled marinated hanger steak, baked chicken enchilada, chipotle-glazed pork belly, chargrilled tuna steak and a Naked Burrito with caramelised sweet potato and pulled chilli jackfruit. Although a place for late-night partying, Diablo Loco is also open in the daytime, serving up brunches and lunches with dishes such as quesadillas, a jalapeno cheeseburger and the essential huevos rancheros.

With cocktails priced from £6 to £8.50, Margaritas are the star of the drinks menu, with a selection of flavoursome twists such as Smoked Paprika, Pineapple and Cardamon, Frozen Mango, and Frozen Coconut and Lemongrass. But the bar team – dubbed the devil’s “esbirros”, or henchmen – have created a line-up of other twisted classics and original recipes, led by “heavenly libations” that are “designed to tempt even the most angelic of guests”. These are not just using agave spirits so options include a Maracuyá Sour, with Aba Pisco and passion fruit, a Strawberry Burro with Absolut vodka, strawberry, orange, lime and spiced maple ginger and the Pina Party Punch with Bacardí rum, pineapple, orange and lime, topped with prosecco.

For agave fans, there is a list of “hellish concoctions”, or “Infernales Brebajes”, full of rich and indulgent flavours. The Scacco Matto combines Herradura Reposado tequila with Frangelico, Kahlúa, chocolate bitters and Pedro Ximénez sherry, while the Aztec Sacrifice is a mix of Nuestra Soledad mezcal, blood orange juice, Cherry Heering liqueur and sweet vermouth, listed alongside their twist on the classic El Diablo, using hibiscus agave with El Jimador tequila, lime juice and ginger beer.

Diablo Loco Chris Watts booths

Inevitably, a Mexican party bar has to have shots, with creative options such as a Shotgun with gunpowder tea and fruit-infused El Jimador tequila and El Craig Davide – El Jimador with a side of pineapple verdita. The bar’s large collection of agave spirits is ideal for those who like to sip rather than shoot, with a sangrita and a verdita available as a traditional accompaniment. There are around 40 different expressions of tequila including several añejos such as Fortaleza and Casa Noble plus about a dozen mezcals and a couple of La Venenosa raicilla agave spirit.

Alongside Sol, Corona and Modelo, other bottled beers imported from Mexico include Mexicali Dark Lager and Day of the Dead’s pale ale and porter although there are plenty more in bottles and on draught from elsewhere including the US and Scotland. “Para las virgenes”, as the menu cheekily calls those seeking non-alcoholic drinks, options range from juices such as the Speedy Gonzalez with apple, ginger, carrot and lime, through to a selection of Jarritos soft drinks from Mexico.

Diablo Loco aims to be a new champion of Mexican food and drink in Edinburgh, with its bartenders ready to help customers explore agave spirits. “In our eyes, tequila is the next growth spirit,” Stuart adds. “At Diablo Loco, we celebrate Mexico’s national drink and look forward to showing our customers that tequila is a drink on the rise.”

Diablo Loco, 74-78 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9PT
Tel: 0131 667 2701

Diablo Loco Chris Watts bartender

Behind the scenes
Design: Tibbatts Abel
Main contractor: WFC
Lighting: 3Ci Lighting
Furniture: Roomfood
Bric-à-brac: LCT Interior Solutions
Singage: Specialized Signs
Murals: Lynsey Jean Henderson

Originally published in the January 2018 print edition of Bar magazine.

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