Thirty hot Vimto’s on chilly autumn evenings later, and a whole load of other dishes, drinks and cocktails peppered with the purple stuff, I did finally catch on and learn that it was in fact from Manchester.
Granted, the giant sculpture of the retro bottle and surrounding fruits I walked past almost every day on my way to and from University should have been a giveaway. But it wasn’t until now when I am clutching at straws to find other statues to talk about that aren’t boring old men, that I gave myself the time to learn the whole story…
Back in 1908, local herbalist Noel Nichols brewed the first barrel of what was then called ‘Vim Tonic’ in a little terrace house on Granby Row. It was a mixture of herbs, spices and local, seasonal fruit with a recipe that is, to this day, a safely guarded secret.
Vimto began its life as a health tonic which was designed to keep you fit and full of ‘Vim’ or vigour. It was even prescribed as a medicine, believe it or not. Vimto was a favourite beverage of the Temperance movement- which was against the consumption of alcohol and for the fruity yet botanical taste of Vim Tonic.
The purple drink we know and love is still a favourite among drinkers and non-drinkers alike. Many tee-total areas such as the Middle East, Indonesia and the Pacific love Vimto so much that it outsells Coca-Cola- which is kind of a big deal when talking about a business which practically runs the world.
For drinkers, especially here in Manchester, Vimto is often used as a fun, fruity ingredient in all manner of cocktails. I hear Shack in the Northern Quarter has just brought out a Vimto Daiquiri which looks insane, and you see the ‘Manchester Martini’ pop up on menus from time to time.
It is even used in food- The Refuge by Volta slip a little slurple of the purple into their braised red cabbage which goes with their Sunday Roast as well as Vimto jelly on the menus of fine dining establishments like The French at The Midland Hotel or Manchester House.
The point is, we love it here in Manchester. Whether it’s the unique flavour or its quirky Northern charm, but there is something about Vimto that seems to inspire devotion from its followers, and nothing demonstrates this more than the statue on Granby Row close to where that original batch was brewed in a tiny terraced house.
The little house doesn’t exist anymore- so you will not find a commemorative blue plaque (which should be purple if there was one). What we do have, however, is the tremendous wooden memorial in the gardens of Granby Row which urges you to sit out in the sunshine on a lovely day and get some of the good stuff down your neck in true Mancunian style.
Chin Chin Vimto- cheers for keeping us hydrated since 1908.