Last night was the beginning of something which is now familiar within the Manchester bar and restaurant scene, so familiar in fact that it’s now accustomed to hear the words “so how many have you been on?” when meeting like-minded drinks enthusiasts for the first time. I am of course talking about The Liquorists and their spirit trails. I myself have seven trails to my name (six for your viewing pleasure are located under ‘The Liquorists header down the right-hand side), with The Liquorists bringing along their 3rd installment of the world of rum to add to the ever-growing list of categories explored. This time however, they’ve gone one better. Last night was the start of an unprecedated 6 bars compared to their usual gather of 5, with the sixth being described by Tom Sneesby as ‘something a little bit special’.
Tom, one of the founders of The Liquorists, had myself and eleven other food and drink fanatics meet at one of Manchester’s well-known Tiki bars, Hula. Located along Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter, this basement den of cocktails rum and good cheer, complete with beach huts, sand and a tropical fish tank started our night off with Plantation rum. Part of a collection of unique Caribbean treasures, every barrel is individually sampled and only those that show traditional characteristics of the area of production are selected for bottling. This soft rum is aged in oak barrels for a number of years before being transported to cellars in Cognac, France where they are finished in Cognac casks. This well-balanced result was perfect for our cocktail creation, Atlantic Boat Club Daiquiri, and the fruits of banana and toasted pineapple. Next on the agenda was the short trip to Keko Moku, Manchester’s original Tiki bar. Huddled around wooden barrels with El Dorado 12yr being handed out, fire was being produced for a customers rum fuelled cocktail which does beg the question of ‘how is this place still standing?’. All is soon forgotten though with the Sanguine Swizzle cocktail which involves the Guyana based El Dorado 12yr and Blood Orange housed in a jam jar. Blended from different vintages, the age statement of the El Dorado works the same way as whisky produced in Scotland – it indicates the youngest rum in the blend, even though the oldest may be many years older.
Speaking of age-statements, Odd Bar was our next port of call. Having been in the Manchester scene for seven years now, Odd gave us a surprising insight into how a non-cocktail venue achieves some good times when it comes to enjoying rum. The Dominican Republic based Matusalem was their rum of choice, with a tot of the Clasico 10yr being enjoyed by all as we sat around their corner booth. Mojito marinated chicken skewers were handed out to compliment next which can only be described as ‘Odd’. Having a tot of Matusalem Platino in one glass and Steerage ale by the brewery Titanic in the other, the idea was to take a sip of each one after another. A good idea, but one that seemed to divide the group in half! Going from old to new next with Tusk being our home for a splash of Wrey and Nephew. This relatively new bar is next door to the equally sharp Walrus, and houses comfy leather sofas, fish tanks, and enough over-proof rum to floor a rhino . . . . or walrus. At 63% abv, water was on stand-by to ‘soften the blow’, as were truffles and homemade sticky toffee pudding. To counteract to a sweet-tooths delight, we were created a Hipster Daiquri that came with a lime infused salt rim a’la Margarita style!
With the rum flowing around the room, and with a slight tequila sense mixed in, we crossed the road to one of Northern Quarters newest bar and restaurant, The Blue Pig. This lively venue was enjoying its soft opening (with the launch night happening tonight) but you could easily mistake The Blue Pig for having been open for months. The bustle of the diners mingled with the bar patrons next to the Parisian influenced decor, as we ourselves sipped away at Apple Daiquiri’s using Brugal as its base. Alongside this Dominican Republic rum came a platter of homemade cheese, pickled pear, duck pate and pistachio meat with a jar of juniper and apple chutney on the side. However, no sooner had we enjoyed the flavours of the last sip, we were being whisked away to our last place on the tour – 22 Redbank.
This is The Liquorists HQ, the ‘something a little bit special’ that Tom had mentioned at the start of the night. To commemorate this, a bottle of the original navy strength Pussers rum was opened and poured for our taste-bud pleasures. At 54.5% abv it was one to make you stand up and listen! Navy style mugs were handed out too with the aptly named Painkiller being served side by side to a cocktail umbrella and Thai curry and satay to finish off. Lounging about in the HQ in comfy chairs and sofas was a fitting end to a night of various styles of both rums, bars and restaurants. I for one have never experienced The Blue Pig or Tusk since they have been open, but will be making my way back their post-haste. As for the rums, personal highlights were the El Dorado 12yr and Plantation, with Brugal closely following. Compared to their last rum trail, it was good to see and experience a new set of rum brands compared to ones that you can easily pick up from any pub or bar. That’s the beauty about The Liquorists and their trails – sauce sessions with a difference.
Check out the rest of last nights photos via my Facebook page.
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