Aberdeen’s Shiprow Village is one of the city’s most exciting new, upcoming areas.
Filled with food, music and bars, the former historic entrance to Aberdeen is being revitalised with a flurry of independent businesses making use of its derelict buildings.
The area’s latest venture comes in the form of The Workshop cocktail bar.
“Cocktails, beers and great atmosphere” is its ethos and since opening in December last year, the venue has already made a positive impression.
Its cavernous setting has warmed visitors during the winter months and cocktails inspired by all corners of the globe are its main attraction.
But what sets The Workshop apart from competitors is its sense of collaborative spirit among all of the new businesses within Shiprow Village.
“It’s been pretty grim the last few years. But we’re working together as a wee community with local people doing locally sourced, fun things,” says The Workshop’s general manager, Milo Smith.
“There are bigger visions in planning for the area, which I can’t speak too much about right now, but the project as a whole is something that I’m personally proud to be a part of.”
Milo, originally from Aberdeen, graduated from Gray’s School of Art in 2004 and was an art teacher for nine years.
He’s worked in circus camps learning how to fire breathe and enjoys injecting his creativity into his work in hospitality.
“Working in hospitality, I really just enjoy meeting new folk,” says Milo.
“It’s a way of being creative with liquids, finding out people’s flavour profiles, figuring out what they enjoy and making things that suit them.”
Milo has also had a hand in various drinks venues in Aberdeen throughout his career.
“I helped to open up Soul and tried my hand at bar management there,” says Milo.
“Then after teaching for nine years, I went back into bar management at 99 Bar & Kitchen, which I ran for five and a half years.
“I loved the place, but I eventually parted ways when I decided to start looking for my own venue.”
Unfortunately, Covid put a sudden stop to Milo’s venue plans. But a new opportunity soon arose.
“I was helping out with The Craftsman company during lockdown and they said they were opening up a new venue in Aberdeen called the Ivy Lodge,” Milo explains.
“I ended up managing the place in Apri last year, with the intention of opening up other bars within Shiprow Village.”
The idea for The Workshop came to fruition soon after, with a dashing of persuasion from Milo along the way.
“The space is right beside the Ivy Lodge and was being used as a maintenance workshop for the Douglas Hotel when we first came across it,” says Milo.
“We haven’t got a clue what it may have been used for many years before – we’re still trying to dig into that – but working with the Douglas Hotel Group, I convinced them to let me turn it into a funky cocktail bar.
“So, we shifted everything out, built a bar and now it is what it is.”
The Workshop opened for a three-week dry run in December of last year before heading off for a winter break in January.
Reopening in February, information on its social media pages has been purposely scarce to entice people to come and find out about the venue.
The venue’s dimly lit setting is great for couples or groups of friends to enjoy exotic drinks in the heart of Aberdeen.
It’s currently open from Wednesdays to Sundays and bookings can be made in advance with walk-ins also welcome.
“The response has been very positive so far. I’m over the moon, to be honest,” says Milo.
“I’ve really enjoyed the whole process of being involved with the venue; from walking in and seeing it as a literal workshop then turning it into a really cool looking wee bar.
“Watching people smile as they come in the door is really humbling and nice to see.”
The Workshop is also looking forward to working harmoniously with foodie neighbours Aberdam and Hole in the Wall Pizza Co. – as well as the Ivy Lodge which plans to reopen this March – with Shiprow Village set for a bumper year.
Milo’s passion for cocktails is peppered throughout The Workshop’s vibrant cocktail list.
“At the moment, we have eight cocktails on our list which we’re going with for now until we find our feet a bit more,” he says.
“I have a bigger list of 20 cocktails coming within the next few weeks. There’s no particular focus on any spirit or any brand – we’re making drinks based off of flavour profiles alone.”
Popular cocktails so far have incorporated flavours from Scotland all the way to Hawaii.
“We have a Maui Tiki cocktail which is very popular. It’s a rum-based drink in a tiki style with pineapple, lime and a cordial that I make in house,” says Milo.
“We also have the Smokey Boat which is a smoked whisky cocktail. This has a heavily peated smoked whisky along with apple juice, vanilla and lemon.
“There’s also the Mary Rose cocktail, which is essentially a pimped-up Cosmopolitan with gin, pink grapefruit liqueur, cranberry juice, lime and foam.”
For those after something different, beers on tap as well as spirits, liqueurs and wines are also at hand.
“We’re trying to cater for every market – you can come in and get a nice cocktail or a pint of Tennent’s if you like,” says Milo.
Building for the future
It may still be early days, but things have certainly set off on the right foot for The Workshop.
Living up to its ethos, Aberdeen locals have taken a taste to the new drinks spot, which is set to enjoy more success with warmer weather approaching and Shiprow Village expanding.
Overall, Milo is keen to keep building the venue’s reputation and showcase the best of what it has to offer.
“We want people to come in and have a bit of fun and remind them about all the good things in hospitality,” says Milo.
“With Shiprow Village, we’re trying to push that collaborative aspect of the area by helping each other out through the tough times of Covid.
“I’m excited about what the future holds.”
A round of questions with Milo Smith of The Workshop…
Most underrated drink?
Long Island iced tea.
Best experience with a drink?
I once had a drink passed to me by Paris Hilton but I had no idea who it was until I’d walked away and somebody told me.
What’s in your drinks cabinet at home?
A wide range of everything from gins to 25-year-old rums.
What was the first drink you ever tried?
Probably beer. No actually, it was a Bacardi and coke.
Favourite drink you serve at The Workshop?
Our Maui Tikis for sure.
Any secret tips of the drinks trade?
Absolutely not – they’re secret for a reason!
Whisky or Bourbon?
If you were stuck on a desert island, what three things would be there with you?
I’d have my cocktail mixology bag with me – it’s got a load of equipment as well as booze. I’d have a water bottle to be healthy and I guess an axe would be practical, right?