Cocktails In The City Review

Cocktails in the city

The biggest cocktail master class came back in full force this year in the form of Cocktails in the City. Located within Manchester Town Hall, 15 of Manchester’s bars teamed up with 15 brands ranging from tequila to rum and vodka to create a cocktail that would wow the consumers and tempt them to part with their tokens. Not only that though, The Liquorists held tasters for all ranging from ‘The Taster’ which involved two cocktails, main stage demonstrations and a cocktail booklet to ‘The Connoisseur‘ which included a champagne cocktail reception, food from Almost Famous, three cocktails and a Liquorists tutored tasting session.

This year, I was lucky enough to be asked to judge, giving me the perfect opportunity to see what the bars and brands came up with.

Starting the night with the bar in the sky, Cloud 23 served up two cocktails in the form of what myself and fellow judge Keeley Watts described as a Starter and Dessert using rum brand Ron Zacapa. The ‘starter’ came with Ron Zacapa, sherry syrup, yuzu juice and whisky aged bitters that were served with bread, chorizo and feta cheese, whilst the ‘dessert’ was created using Ron Zacapa, maraschino, Tip Pepe sherry, sweet vermouth and came with smoked almonds. Pop-up bar specialists Escapade were next with their unusual takes of creation and glassware. The creations being their enthusiasm and team work to create a Blue Lagoon within a closed jam jar (check out the photos, link at the bottom, to see what I’m on about!) plus a Heinz Bloody Mary using Heinz tomato soup, vodka, lemon and spice mix – served in the Heinz soup can. Innovative, and it worked! 31DOVER,the premium online drinks retailer, collaborated with BarChick, the best bar guide on the internet, to come up with a signature cocktail for the evening named The 31 Dover – gin, lemon juice, honey syrup and topped with Champagne.

Harvey's Marmalade Fizz
Harvey’s Marmalade Fizz

One of the new kids on the scene, The Liquor Store, collaborated with well-known tequila brand Jose Cuervo Tradicional to create the Maria Pickford which involved the tequila, lime, maraschino, pomegranate syrup and topped with pineapple foam and cracked pepper. A fantastic blend of flavours, and one that used the worlds first tequila in the best way. Chase Marmalade were partners with Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar to produce Harvey’s Marmalade Fizz. Using the ever popular marmalade vodka, Campari, lemon and lime juice as well as egg white, sugar, Seville marmalade and topped with soda, the serving of it all in a jam jar complete with a dried orange wheel created one of the more visually stunning cocktails of the evening. A look that complimented its name went to Mojo’s and their cocktail with tequila brand Calle 23. The Pink Chihuahua had the simple ingredients of a healthy dose of Calle 23, pomegranate juice, lime, orgeat and egg white, served in the classic coupette glass.

Visiting one of the bars on the outskirts of the city next in the form of Chorlton’s Proof and their collaboration with Lambs Navy Rum. Two cocktails available from these guys – Any Port in a Storm used Lambs Navy, port, ginger, sugar and lime juice whilst the Mutiny on the Bounty had Lambs Navy, dark chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao and cocoa cream complete with a piece of Bounty for the garnish. Next to them were fellow rum brand Flor de Cana and Sandinista. Going for a ‘rum connoisseurs choice of drink’, they came up with Fat Like Buddha – Flor de Cana 7yr, Antica Formula, Benedictine, Cointreau and maraschino liqueur. Venturing back on to the outskirts soon after, visiting Didsbury’s The Violet Hour and Dutch gin Sloane’s, with their two options –  Summer Picnic (Sloane’s, elderflower, lemon, apple juice, marmalade and vanilla) or a more Traditional Cocktail using Sloane’s, curaçao, sugar, lemon and Angostura Bitters.

Another new kid in Neighbourhood partnered with Absolut Elyx to create a Lavender Cosmopolitan. Using pre-steeped lavender and sugar mix to the Absolut Elyx, Grand Marnier and cranberry juice created what Neighbourhood called ‘a seductive zingy Cosmo twist’. The use of Whitley Neil and The Whim Wham Cafe to create the African Sky caught the attention of many an enthusiast, mainly for the loud toots of owner Alix and his African horn (take that how you will) but also for their creation of a cocktail that looks literally like the African sunset. Created using Whitley Neil gin, Cointreau, marmalade syrup, cranberry juice, lime and Peychaud Bitters. Dry ice bellowed from the next bar as Apotheca teamed with Ketel One and made full use of their copper kettles. Creating the Citizen Kettle, they used a double healthy dose of Ketel One, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, white grape and Peychaud Bitters.

Sandanista and Flor de Cana
Sandanista and Flor de Cana

Northern Quarter guys Dusk til Pawn went with white grain spirit Bootlegger to create the aptly named One Old Boot. Using Bootlegger, whisky barrel bitters, sugar, marmalade and ginger, they created a stirred drink with a nod to the Prohibition styles. Cross back into Europe and Belvedere vodka created a twist on the Bramble with Epernay. Using Belvedere, poppy liquor, sugar and lemon, the short yet powerful drink set us up nicely for the trip across the corridor to the The Lord Mayor’s Parlour and three of Manchester’s tiki bars.

Starting with The Liars Club and El Dorado, they created a Liars Club Party Punch using ingredients such as El Dorado 5yr, Prosecco, apple and grapefruit juice, Yorkshire tea and sugar. It came complete with an El Dorado cake courtesy of rum lover North West Nosh! Keko Moko were up next partnering with Chairman’s Reserve to create The Keko Fizz – both Chairman’s Reserve and their Spiced variety as well as cloudy apple juice, egg white, lime, passion fruit liqueur and ting. Described as ‘definitely tiki’, the next and last bar of the evening, Hula, had its work cut out with Havana Seleccion de Maestros. Creating an El Presidente using Havana Club, sweet vermouth, Cointreau and grenadine, the classic went down way too easily.

The winners haven’t been announced yet, but I can tell you that it was no easy task to narrow it down for best cocktail, best bar and best personality. If you can, try each of the above cocktails at some point in the bars, they’re definitely worth a try and maybe you can decide for yourselves who you think should be the winners. While you at it, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for next year, a fantastic atmosphere is not to be missed!

Check out the rest of the photos via my Facebook page. Also check out MWarrenDesigns and the view through his camera.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Neighbourhood Review


As with any big city, there’s aways something new and exciting to check out. Round every corner there’s scaffolding popping up, huge signs with the words ‘coming soon!’ and a buzz on social media of the venue working its magic. With no exception would be Neighbourhood. An American styled bar and restaurant located on Avenue North, behind Oasthouse, by the same guys who brought you Southern Eleven. Apparently taking its inspiration from iconic New York restaurants and housing around 200 covers, it produced a media frenzy (well social media) on its opening night last Thursday, but a Manchester Confidential invite on the Friday meant I had to wait to see what all the fuss was about.

Down what I can only describe as a posh looking back alley you will find multi coloured metal framed tables and chairs. Intriguing more than anything but I can imagine them being taken full advantage of when summer hits for a week in 2013. Friendly door staff showed me the way to my ticket where I could choose my drink for the evening. As a Drinks Enthusiast, I opted for the cocktail offering – Basil Grande.

A good dose of Absolut, raspberry puree, cranberry and lemon juice served in a Martini glass and fresh strawberry garnish went down a treat with me. Unbelievably smooth with a velvet texture hit the spot, and despite not being the first cocktail of the night to be created by the bartender, nothing was too much trouble. I have to point out that for a night like this, customer service could not be faulted, and there were plenty of them to serve you.

Basil Grande
Basil Grande

Although busy, the atmosphere was rather relaxed. No stressful vibes were being omitted from the invitees as they scattered between the long bar and tall tables. Separating us from the main restaurant though was a magnificent looking lit up organ pipe work connecting itself to see-through cabinets full of weird and wonderful items. A large circular booth dominated the room, which looks perfect for holding large parties, being overlooked by an open-hatched kitchen and mezzanine level which you can apparently hire out. The layout also extends down the back of the venue and to the side, so there’s ample space to enjoy and areas to also have a quiet, relaxed meal away from the hustle and bustle of the bar.

The music also had a good selection. Although maybe a little too loud, the beat heavy tracks of Blondie, Police and Soft Cell do make you realise that it’s not your average restaurant with an iPod on shuffle. When was the last time you heard these artists in the same night at 6pm??

The night wasn’t just for Manchester Confidential though, it was open to the public too with orders flying around for Manhattan’s, Old Fashioned’s, Pornstar Martini’s and Tom Collins galore, mixed with calls for wine and Champagne. There offering on the bar isn’t too bad, with Samuel Adams and Asahi on draught and bottles of Heineken, Cusquena, Moretti and Saint completing the range. Spirit selection is rather varied too, with Beefeater 24, Zubrowka, Olmeca, Hendrick’s, Woodford Reserve, Tanqueray 10, Chase Marmalade and the Plymouth range some of the highlights. The back bar comes complete with a back wall. A noughts and crosses style shelving housing delights such as Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot and Belle Epoque – a rather impressive sight.

You may have noticed that I’m yet to mention anything about the food. Truth is, I missed out. Not that they ran out or anything, I unfortunately had to leave earlier than intended however I will say this – some of the smells and aromas coming from that kitchen were absolutely fantastic. No word of a lie.

So Neighbourhood is a rather interesting addition to the Manchester scene, and to Spinningfields which breaks up the Living Ventures monopoly so-to-speak, and I will be back to see what it’s like in a few weeks, see if it can carry on its impressive start, and to try out the food. Oh and the cocktails – they don’t seem to be too much trouble to create.

Check out the rest of the photos from the evening via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.