Back in the 70s the most adventurous a cocktail would get in a pub in Manchester was a Rum & Coke, and then in the 80s people started drinking ‘Sex on the Beach’ and ‘Pina Coladas and we’ve never looked back.
In recent years though the city has really stepped up its cocktail game, with one of the world’s most diverse and adventurous menus on offer, all watched over by some truly talented mixologists and bartenders.
This lot are leading the way in cocktail development and execution and if you fancy a little treat this weekend – you can’t go wrong with one of these places…
Opening up to rather muted fanfare back in 2021, Schofield’s initial success was in spite of a prolonged global pandemic, which saw most of us making and drinking some pretty dangerous cocktails in our own homes, courtesy of Glenn, Jack Daniels and Gordon. Since then though, Schofield’s has cemented itself as the city’s premier cocktail destination – where every single ingredient is meticulously considered, and every element goes into maximising your ‘experience’. If you think you know cocktails – this place is a must-visit.
What to Try: Kingston Trio – Dewar’s 12 Scotch, Apple Aperitif, Citrus, Soda
Schofield’s Bar, 3 Little Quay Street Sunlight House, Manchester M3 3JZ
A big favourite in the Finest office, Henry C in Chorlton has 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.
What to try: Claro Daiquiri – Olive Oil Washed Bacardi Blanca Rum, Cacao, Maraschino Liqueur, Supasawa
Henry C, 107 Manchester Road, Chorlton, M21 9GA
Speak in Code
A city gem that offers up an innovative and imaginative cocktail menu, proud to proclaim that there are “no gimmicks” here. Their most recent menu is only their second ever and is called the ‘Subjective interpretation of Cocktails’ – mixing up flavour exploration and hip-hop. The menu is designed to resemble a record, and every drink there has a story and a link to staff experiences.
What to try: Track 12 – Porter’s Tropical Gin, Peach aperitif, Cantaloupe Melon, Pear juice, foamer and Melon sushi.
Speak In Code, 7 Jackson’s Row, Manchester M2 5ND
Let me tell you, not only does DISTRICT impress with their food menu but their cocktails are truly excellent, with the same wonder and imagination going into them as the food. The cocktail menu, like every part of DISTRICT, has been developed to draw on every sense, with sight, smell and taste being heightened with every sip. All eight cocktails have been inspired by Thai cuisine, combining the best of bar and culinary techniques.
What to Try: FORNAX – Smoked Beef Fat Rum, Fish Sauce Caramel, Tomato, Thai Parsley
DISTRICT, 60 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE
Three Little Words
For a bar with a full gin distillery on-site – it’s perfectly normal to expect the cocktails at Three Little Words to be a step above the rest – and they certainly won’t let you down in that respect. The menu revolves around ‘Ground to Glass’, taking you on a journey of the spirit from ‘Cultivation’ with earthy, vegetal flavours, through ‘Distillation’, ‘Maturation’ and finally ‘Adoration’ with their most complex, bold and delicate cocktails.
What to try: Clear Waters – Hacienda Gin, Samphire, White Wine, Fennel, Nori
Three Little Words, 12-13 Watson St, Manchester M3 4LP
One of the NQ’s best cocktail bars – The Daisy is certainly a hidden gem, neatly tucked away in the basement of Evelyn’s on Tib Street. The menu is divided into four sections, with a range of ‘Classics’ and ‘Signatures’ offering up some well-known concoctions but with a decidedly French, Japanese and Mexican twist. Then there are the ‘Sharpeners’, which are essentially wild gin creations, and the ‘Curtain Droppers’ which are decidedly more complex and offer up something altogether more extravagant.
What to try: Club Cantinero – Takamaka Rum Zenn, Luxardo Maraschino, Belsazar White, Maraschino Syrup, Cherry Bitters
The Daisy, G18, 44 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LA
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 model’s head and the Saturday night crew will go crazy for it, right? Well, Tattu have always taken a different tact with everything they do and spend just as much time coming up with their cocktails 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 are some really impressive drinks here.
What to try: Cherry Blossom Negroni – Roku Gin, Cherry Blossom, Campari.
Tattu, 3 Hardman Square, Gartside St, Manchester M3 3EB
Science & Industry
Hidden upstairs above the brilliant rib joint Cane & Grain, you might not even know that Science & Industry exists or that they do some of the most imaginative cocktails in the whole wide city. They take their cocktails (and science) very seriously 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 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: Pinot Colada – Plantation 3 Star – Clarified Lime + Pineapple Juice – Takamaka Coconut – Coco-Pinot Syrup
Science & Industry, 49, 51 Thomas St, Manchester M4 1NA
You might not expect this party bar in the heart of the Northern Quarter to have such good cocktails – but they’re exceptionally well done, with some truly weird and wonderful flavours and combinations. Alongside the classics and a dedicated ‘Spritz’ menu is a range of often mad cocktails, such as the ‘Eyes That See At Night’ which is essentially a boozy carrot cake concoction, or the ‘Captain Don’ – a rum, banana and miso caramel drink that tastes just like a Wether’s Original.
What to Try: Eyes That See At Night – Clementine Spiced Rum, Carrot Cake Syrup, Milk, Cream Cheese Foam
Lost Cat, 4 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE
The Jane Eyre
In both Ancoats and their very own dedicated mezzanine space at Escape to Freight Island, The Jane Eyre is an exceptional bar and offers up some of the city’s very best and most imaginative cocktails. There’s a selection of just 10 unique cocktails on the menu, but they’re refined, perfected and honed these drinks into something beautiful, taking you on a journey around the world with gins, tequilas, bourbons, Japanese whiskey and even Cachaca – sugar cane spirit all the way from the rainforests of Brazil.
What to Try: Sambista – Cachaça, Honeydew, White Port, Lime, Brazilian Bitters, Coconut Water
The Jane Eyre, 14 Hood St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6WX
Probably the newest addition to this list, Mule opened up on Blossom Street in Ancoats in 2021 and instantly impressed people, including many in the Finest office, with their cocktail offerings. Primarily focusing on brunch and coffees during the day, Mule also offers a selection of four very, very good ‘Brunch Cocktails’ including probably the city’s best Bloody Mary (served with a red wine float). In the evenings, the space is transformed into Lucky Ramen, with a Japanese inspired cocktail menu to match.
What to Try: It’s got to be their Bloody Mary.
Mule, 13 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 5AF
Delhi House Cafe
This is probably the last place you’d expect to find on this list – a Delhi-inspired Indian restaurant in the Corn Exchange? Really? Yes, because the team at Delhi House Cafe have crafted an absolutely fantastic list of drinks that complement and enhance their dishes – with many of them having a story or history behind them that relates back to life in India. For example, the ‘Jugaad Kar De’ was traditionally made to look like milk so that children could drink alcohol without their parents knowing – and served in a teapot!
What to Try: Jugaad Kar De – Rye Whiskey, Pistachio, Tea Syrup, Jaggery Palm Reduction
Delhi House Cafe, Unit 10, The Corn Exchange, Manchester M4 3TR
This plush cocktail bar right at the top of Oldham Street has always stuck by its opening ethos, promising “no gimmicks, just outstanding service and extraordinary drinks.” They deliver on both of these in spades, with some truly outstanding cocktails available on their list. The menu is split up into ‘Classics’ and their ‘House’ offerings, with some highly unique concoctions, such as the ‘Walk the Line’ with cacao-washed Diplomatico Rum and the ‘Key Lime Ramos’ – essentially a cake in a cocktail.
What to Try: Walk The Line – Cacao-washed Diplomatico Mantuano Rum, Tonka, Peach.
Mecanica, 1-3 Swan St, Manchester M4 5JJ
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 at home, 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 what you want – 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 – Portobello Road Gin, Earl Grey Tea, lemon, honey and lavender.
Behind Closed Doors, 91-95 Oldham Street, M4 1LW
Updated on 12th May 2022