Ever since Janice Smith asked for a Rum & Coke in the local Con Club in Hull in 1976 us Brits have loved a cocktail.
We love them so much that any night out without a cocktail is like a visit to the kebab shop without a samosa while you wait – not worth it. Here’s our pick of the best Manchester has to offer:
Anyone who is willing to trawl through thousands of ancient Japanese idioms for inspiration on their cocktails deserve some form of recognition and so here you go Cottonopolis – the highest accolade you can ever expect to receive – praise off Ben Brown. Their new cocktail menu highlights just how much they care about their drink mixing, and it’s always been the case since they opened – unusual flavours that work brilliantly together, usually with some form of Japanese or Mancunian twist. They tend to look fantastic but also manage to follow through with well thought out tastes and in some cases – unusual sensations.
What to try: Pulling Water to My Own Rice Paddy – Ketel One Vodka infused with Sweet Toasted Rice, Kumquat Plum Sake and Milk Syrup
The Liars Club
You’ve got your fair share of Tiki bars to choose from in Manchester, well – you used to anyway. Most have them have gone the way of a small Polynesian island during a tsunami and disappeared almost entirely, but still going strong are The Liars Club, in no small part due to their fantastic range of rum and imaginative cocktails. Anyone who goes in here and orders a lager is missing out on some of the city’s best rum-based bevvies including possibly the city’s best Zombie as well as some seriously strong (and crazy) sharers.
What to try: The Banana Drink – A creamy blended banana milkshake with coconut, pineapple, Capucana Cachaca and Wray and Nephews. Sweetened with some Liars Club syrup and served in a coconut.
The Liars Club, 19A Back Bridge St, Manchester M3 2PB
Science & Industry
Hidden upstairs above the brilliant rib joint Cane & Grain, you might not even know that Science & Industry exists or that they do quite possibly the best cocktails in the whole wide city. They take their cocktails and science very seriously in here and they have more gadgets and machines knocking about than NASA did when they sparked Neil Armstrong to the moon. Reading their menu is like reading some sort of cryptic crossword clue book, with loads of mental words like ‘tincture’ and ‘saline’ but if you just sit back and trust the expertise on show – you’re going to love it.
What to try: The Tribunal Express – Arabica-infused Havana Club 7 rum, Chilli-cacao, Syrup, TnT tincture, Coconut foam, Clouds, Saline
Relatively new on the Manchester food and cocktail scene, Bunny Jackson’s on First Street have impressed early with their range of excellent cocktails – most of which manage to take American Rye Whiskey and make it taste half-decent. As if the range of cocktails wasn’t enough, they also offer £5 Old Fashioned on Friday’s as well as a 4-hour Happy Hour every single day (between 5pm and 9pm). It must be said that the staff here are always friendly and helpful and will be willing to make pretty much anything you ask for, they can bash together anything and it always tastes mint.
What to try: Southern Smash – Mellow Corn Whiskey, Mint, Lemon, Benedictine & Vanilla Sugar
Bunny Jacksons, 1 Jack Rosenthal Street, Manchester M15 4RA
A big favourite in the Finest office, Henry C in Chorlton have been mixing and pouring and shaking some of the city’s best and most inventive cocktails for years now – and if you’ve never been – sort it out. They pride themselves on simple cocktails with a twist, with most concoctions coming in at around 4 or less main ingredients. They make a ton of stuff in-house too including many infused spirits (Cacao infused Campari anyone?) which are all blended together by some proper real pros. Their Bloody Mary is a thing of beauty for a hangover too!
What to try: Sbagliato ‘Mistaken Negroni’ – Campari, Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Sparkling Wine
Henry C, 107 Manchester Road, Chorlton, M21 9GA
Albatross & Arnold
With their new wonder chef came a new menu which concentrates on seasonal flavours and local produce. It comes as no surprise then that with a new menu must come a new set of cocktails and so Albatross & Arnold have brought together a range of spirits, flavours and tastes that is seriously impressive. There’s plenty to choose from and even if they don’t have it on the menu, the staff are excellent at knocking up something exciting from the huge range of spirits that are knocking about behind the bar. There’s very little glitz and glamour to these beauties (except their lovely glasses) – it seems they want to let the drinks do the talking. Which could be a new Disney film idea actually.
What to try: Salted Caramel Old Fashioned – Chivas 12yr, walnut liquor, salted caramel syrup.
I’m pretty sure every single person above the age of 18 has been in an Alchemist and bought a cocktail that comes laden with dry ice, a KitKat Chunky sticking out of it and a live Borrower on the side who will happily spoon the concoction into your mouth while you chat. It’s fair to say that some of the cocktails on the Alchemist menu are a bit mental, but there’s also plenty of absolute winners too. With such a big menu available there’s something for everyone and they’re usually all fantastic. I once had a Cola Bottle cocktail thing in here that was clear, came in an old Coke bottle and was lethal. I think about it all the time. They don’t do it any more though – perhaps if anyone from the Alchemist is reading this – pop it back on the menu? For me?
What to try: Butter Beer – Sailor Jerry, Licor 43, salted vanilla syrup. Gold beer soda.
Behind Closed Doors
It’s a Friday night, 2am and it’s fair to say that you’ve had a few too many shandies. What do you do? Well, don’t bother heading to the nearest kebab shop and falling asleep watching Tron while chomping on a donner, head on over to Behind Closed Doors on Oldham Street because surprisingly for a late-night venue – their cocktails are fantastic. They all come with slightly weird, risqué names – fitting in with the sleazy aesthetic of the venue, but once you’ve plucked up the courage to tell the bartender that you want a ‘Penis Colada’ – you’re going to be treated to some amazing flavours served up by some of the best mixologists in town.
What to try: 50 Shades Of Earl Grey – An unrestrained tea pot of Portobello Road Gin, Earl Grey Tea, lemon, honey and lavender.
Behind Closed Doors, 91-95 Oldham Street, M4 1LW
With all the glitz and glamour of Spinningfields, it could be easy to rest on your laurels when it comes to cocktails – throw a bit of prosecco in with some Chambord, add a sparkler, put it on a midget’s head and the Saturday night crew will go crazy for it right? Well, Tattu have always taken a different tact with their cocktails and spend just as much time coming up with them as they do their brilliant Chinese dishes. That’s why you’ll find some truly excellent creations, many coming with a nice little Asian twist (think Sake, cherry blossom & lemongrass). Sure, some of them have the obligatory bells and whistles to impress the Spinningfields’s Instagrammers but behind that – there’s some really impressive drinks.
What to try: Smokin’ Aces – A smoking mix of Bourbon, Chocolate and Orange.
Opening up on the old site of Keko Moku, there was already a rich heritage of amazing cocktails that must have already seeped into the floorboards and plaster walls of Convenience Store – much like the slime in Ghostbusters 2 but with a much more impressive aftertaste. This might be a controversial one but I don’t care – when I went into Convenience Store I was very impressed with the imagination and variety of cocktails on offer – most of which come with a bit of a Kwik-E-Mart twist. Coming from the Almost Famous lot you’d expect these things to be a little bit OTT – and you’re right, but just like the burgers – they still taste amazing, so who cares?
What to try: Cheeri-Fuckin-O-Kiddo – Cinnamon Crunch & Cheerios with vanilla ice cream, vanilla vodka, Mr Blacks coffee liqueur, milk & cream.
Convenience Store, 100-102 High Street, Manchester, M4 1HP
Grafene have always been pretty impressive when it came to cocktails but ever since they got a new chef and gave their menu a bit of a makeover their cocktails have followed suit and are now seriously, seriously good. They’ve taken the Manchester-British influence from Ben Mounsley’s new menu and incorporated it into their cocktail menu to bring a selection of drinks with a definitive Manc slant on them. Not just this but there’s also a more ‘exotic’ selection on offer with a bit of Japanese here, some French there and a bit of the US thrown in for good measure. Pretty much like the last G20 summit but with more things getting along together.
What to try: Japanese Old Fashioned – Japanese Whiskey, Grafene’s Kuro Sato, Ginger and Wasabi, Whiskey Barrel Bitters, served with Duck Scratchings.
Compiled on 18th July 2018