Since its launch in 2007, Imbibe has established itself as the UK’s leading publisher for on-trade drinks professionals and each year they decide on the coveted Drinks List of the Year competition.
Taking in over 150 entries from all over the UK, Imbibe's judges whittle it all down to a series of shortlists, and this year there's some significant Manchester influence on there.
Avant Garde Drinks List of the Year
First up is the 'Avant garde drinks list of the year' - an award which looks at bars who are pushing the boundaries of drinks creation and their lists that reflect that. The judges are looking for something they've not seen before and two of Manchester's bars have been shortlisted;
The Principles Menu at Cottonopolis
Inspired by Japanese Aesthetics, this brand-new menu at Cottonopolis looks at how we create 'moments' and 'ways of being' and aims to celebrate those little moments in life. Interpreting a set of Japanese Aesthetics, Gethin Jones has tried to apply them to the cocktail making procedure - focusing on ingredients, textures and aromas in order to reflect on life's little pleasures.
Must Try Cocktail: Set on the 'Iki' section of the menu, the Clementine, Açai & Strawberry (£9) combines Manchester’s Diablesse Gold and Clementine Spiced Rums with Aluna Coconut Rum, Açai berry, Orange Blossom, Strawberry, Lime Leaf, Basil, Citric Acid and Fat-Washed Coconut.
APERTURE at Wolf At The Door
Designed to be a 'living, breathing cocktail menu'. APERTURE at Wolf At The Door has been designed so that it will change with the seasons, with the basic framework of the drinks remaining the same but certain elements evolving as things go in and out of season. This creates a menu that's flexible but also always at its peak in terms of quality and flavours. Working closely with the kitchen in their dedicated Innovation Room, this menu is unlike anything Manchester has ever seen before.
Must Try Cocktail: I was bowled over by SCORCHED, a combination of Johnnie Walker Black Label, Smoked Juniper, Whey (from the kitchen) and a Burnt Agave syrup which adds a welcome caramel taste to the whole drink. It's unlike any whiskey drink I've ever tasted.
Group Drinks List of the Year
There's a certain high level of creativity and ambition required when designing drinks for multiple sites, as it's important to still maintain a certain level of individuality over sites - where the cocktails need to be distinguishable from one bar to another. Imbibe were certainly impressed with a certain group in the city;
The Liars Group
Incorporating Crazy Pedro's, Cane & Grain, The Bay Horse Tavern, The Liars Club and Science & Industry, it must be a monumental task to create individual and unique cocktails for each site and for them to have their own identity but it's something that Adam Wilson (Head of Drinks Development) relishes at creating and overcoming. He's clearly doing a good job because he's impressed the gang over at Imbibe (as well as me on several occasions). Must try cocktails...
Cola Bottle Old Fashioned @ Cane & Grain
A guilty pleasure of mine, this beaut comes loaded with Wild Turkey, Cherry liqueur, Cola Syrup and Chocolate bitters.
You Feta Believe It @ Science & Industry
One of my most favourite cocktails ever, this Feta Cheese washed drink is nothing short of wonderful with every sip. Feta & Tomato Pisco, Lemon juice, Egg Whites, Red Grape Shrub and Syrup.
Molokini @ The Liars Club
A Mexican variation on the Pina Colada, this fruity number comes with Jose Cuervo 1800 coconut tequila, Sailor Jerry's, Passionfruit syrup, lemon and coconut.
Pedro & The Prinny @ Crazy Pedro's
Recently featured in The Guardian, this new cocktail on Pedro's menu is surprisingly refreshing, with mezcal, pink gin, vanilla-almond syrup and a tin of San Pellegrino Blood Orange to finish.
Instant Negroni @ The Bay Horse Tavern
A classic so classic that it's available on an optic, you can't go wrong with a Negroni and this one at the Bay Horse is excellent. Campari, Beefeater Gin and Cocchi Torino Vermouth.
So there you have it - well done to all of you lot! Watch this space for when the winners are announced - I'll bet* my right arm that at least one of them will win something.
* Bet not legally binding.