When I was a kid I would always get really confused when watching 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' at the bit where they went into the wall at a bar to hide from Judge Doom.
I could just never understand why there was a separate, secret room which had a peep hole in it into the main bar. Once I got older however, and found out about the Prohibition – all became crystal clear.
The Prohibition, although an idiotic idea and subsequent massive failure, has since provided ample subject matter for movie makers, novelists and bartenders ever since. Without the Prohibition there would be no gangsters and therefore no Godfather. Without the Prohibition there also wouldn’t be any of the many speakeasies that have popped up in the city over the last few years…
You’re sat in Dogs N Dough, scoffing a massive hot dog, watching Uncle Buck on the screens and drinking a strong cocktail. You slowly realise that a few people who come in are just walking straight past the bar and heading to a non-descript door on the back wall. What’s going on here then? You get up and go through the door – down some steps and you’re in 17 Below, a hidden den of pool, 80’s themed cocktails and FREE arcade machines. Get yourself a ‘Fistful of Quarters’ cocktail, park yourself in front of Donkey Kong and try to beat Billy Mitchell’s score of 3,333,360 while getting absolutely blotto’ed.
17 Below, 17 Bow Ln, Manchester M2 4FW
Behind Closed Doors
You’re walking down Oldham Street and you’re looking for a new t-shirt to get printed for your mates’ stag do in Magaluf. You begin to notice a group of pretty attractive girls pressing a non-descript buzzer and walking down some stairs. What’s going on here then? You decide to sack off the t-shirt and press the buzzer as well. As the door opens you begin to descend into Behind Closed Doors, the city’s newest hidden bar and a veritable den of sleaze and debauchery, complete with a substantial list of fabulous cocktails, vintage erotica and a buzz of funk and soul tunes. Get yourself a cocktail, park yourself in one of their booths and try your best to chat up some of those girls on the vintage telephones that are conveniently dotted around.
Behind Closed Doors, 91-95 Oldham Street, M4 1LW
Corner Cocktail Club
You’re milling around Stevenson Square, walking past the new West Corner restaurant on Spear Street and you notice a buzzer with ‘Please do not press here’ written on it. As a notorious maverick and rule-breaker, you decide to press it, and upon entry are greeted by basement cocktail bar the Corner Cocktail Club. Down here you will be treated to a massive selection of cocktails, as well as comfy booths, loads of tiles and the odd classic movie projected onto the wall. At the moment the bar is a very classy combination of table service and bookings only, so if you want to go – you will have to get in touch and get your name on the list. The place is open on Friday & Saturdays only.
West Corner, 21 Hilton St, Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 1JJ
0161 241 7070
Science & Industry @ Cane & Grain
You’re enjoying a massive plate of some of the best ribs you’ve ever eaten, and your chin, fingers and shirt is coated in a sloppy layer of BBQ sauce as you go to town on your food. As you glance up you notice someone pull the wall away and disappear through a secret doorway. You quickly finish your ribs, pay the bill and head on up through the doorway to Science & Industry – a super-spiffy speakeasy specialising in innovative cocktail creations and the attempt to push the boundaries of scientific and molecular mixology. This may all sound rather complicated but the lay man can expect a big selection of mental cocktails, mixed up and devised in their own back-room laboratory – giving you some crazy flavours and odd sensory experiences with every sip.
Cane & Grain, 49 -51 Thomas Street, Manchester M4 1NA
0161 839 7033
You’ve spilt beetroot juice all over your new Frankie Says Relax t-shirt and so you quickly run down to the local laundrette on Shudehill to get it cleaned up before you head on over to an 80’s party at Tiger Tiger. As you enter you notice that they don’t have many machines and it’s a bit quiet, but screw it – desperate times and all that. Unfortunately none of the machines work, and as you frustratingly scramble around with your packet of Bold, you realise that a young couple with trendy haircuts have walked in, picked up a phone and then disappeared through a door on the wall disguised as a dryer. Well, this is The Washhouse – a speakeasy bar disguised as a laundrette – offering a range of cocktails and fizz in a small, comfortable environment packed with trendy peeps and modern songs. To enter you will need to book on the phone – otherwise instead of impressing your date you’ll just look like a right knob.
The Washhouse, 19 Shudehill, Manchester M4 2AF
0161 839 5287
You’re having a midnight walk through Salford, looking for an off licence in which to buy some cheap Buckfast, when you notice a non-descript door down a little alleyway. You decide to walk through the door and you find yourself in a demure but pretty brilliant cocktail bar called Peggy’s Bar. Located on a small side street round the back of the Rovers Return pub on Chapel Street, Peggy’s Bar offers a wide range of excellent cocktails served up by knowledgeable staff that usually know a thing or two about how to mix bevvies.
Peggy’s Bar, 6 Barlow’s Croft, Salford M3 5DY
0161 832 6699
Dusk til Pawn
You’ve had a bit of financial difficulty recently and have managed to slip your Nan’s ring off her hand and into your pocket while she was sleeping. If only you could get that bloody thing pawned you can head on out this weekend with the girls – it’s Sarah’s birthday after all. Apparently there’s a pawn shop on Stevenson Square, but as you enter, you realise that it’s a bloody bar and not a pawn shop at all! Well, it’s Dusk til Pawn and although the exterior is set up to look like a shop, the interior is very much a buzzing bar complete with a great jukebox, loads of cocktails and a great selection of craft ales. They also have a fantastic selection of whiskeys and bourbons, so you can probably have one of the best Old Fashions in town here. You’ll just have to secretly slip your Nan’s ring back on her finger and think of another way to scrape 50 quid together.
Dusk Til Pawn, Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 1FB
0161 236 5355
Wood and Company
As any HGV driver will tell you – loading bays are not glamourous locations in the slightest. They are typically places filled with cardboard boxes, manky bins and dark corners in which drunk people can have a wee in peace. Not so with Wood and Company though – it’s a loading bay which conveniently opens up to reveal a fully operating and functional bar, which couldn’t be further away from the dank, smelly mess that you’d associate with the typical loading bay. Enter through the ‘Goods Entrance’ door and you’ll find a bar which is impeccably decked out, with an impressive list of cocktails, ales and wines in which to get yourself suitably merry. If you manage to find it, get yourself down and you won’t be disappointed.
Wood & Company, 39 S King St, Manchester M2 6DE
0161 839 3916