Manchester is a place full of independent bars on every corner and we’re lucky to call a city with such a vibrant variety our home.
If it’s a cocktail you’re after sipping in a socially-distanced setting this Bank Holiday weekend, then there’s plenty of local hangouts worth adding to your list.
The popular #EatOutToHelpOut scheme might be drawing to a close on Monday, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop supporting our city’s hardworking independent bars at a time when they still continue to need our help more than ever.
The list of places worth mentioning here is endless, but we’ve narrowed down a few of our favourites so, in no particular order, here’s our picks for some of the best independent bars to sip a cocktail at this weekend:
Dusk Til Pawn
At first glance, Dusk Til Pawn might not be quite what you think it is, but hidden behind a pawn shop storefront in the heart of the Northern Quarter, this “prohibition-chic lounge” is serving up some of the best craft cocktails, wine and beer that the city has to offer.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Dusk Til Pawn website here.
Science & Industry
Sitting on the first floor of popular Northern Quarter hangout Cane and Grain, Science & Industry is Manchester’s most “experimental” cocktail bar.
The focus of this eccentric hideaway is to provide customers with a new and exciting style drinking, and a dedicated drinks laboratory has been created within the bar for experimentation with flavour and scientific techniques, which allows it to develop unique cocktails.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Science & Industry website here.
South King Street
It may be tucked away underground on South King Street – just off Deansgate’s main thoroughfare – but with an extensive menu of drinks and cocktails prepared by some of the city’s most-knowledgeable artisans, Arcane really isn’t one to be missed.
This is one of Manchester’s most eclectic, bold and inspired bars on the scene.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Arcane website here.
Speak In Code
Speak In Code is an award-winning bar in the heart of the city centre that prides itself on focusing on quality, service and an imaginative offering of cocktails.
There also looks to have been quite a few new additions to the ever-expanding cocktail menu over this past month too – from martinis and negronis, to mojitos and gins – so there’s sure to be something for every taste if you’re heading down there over Bank Holiday weekend.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Speak In Code website here.
Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors is the home of “sex, rugs and funk ‘n’ soul”.
A good time is pretty much guaranteed at this self-proclaimed “debauched cocktail bar” in the heart of the Northern Quarter, playing boogie, soul and up-beat funk all night long, with an extensive and varied drinks menu that only adds to the fun.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Behind Closed Doors website here.
Wood & Company
South King Street
Another popular underground South King Street hangout, Wood & Company’s eclectic range of spirits are constantly being updated and added to, making it the perfect place to grab a cocktail in the city centre over this Bank Holiday weekend.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Wood & Company website here.
Fancy stepping back in time for a cocktail this weekend?
If that answer to that was yes, then just a bit further out of the city centre in Ancoats is Sammy’s – a completely retro 1970s-themed cocktail bar. Sure, it might be hidden in plain sight with no on-street signage, but once you step inside, it isn’t somewhere you’re going to forget.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Sammy’s Cocktail Bar website here.
Three Little Words
Three Little Words is more than just gin.
Nestled in the historical arches beneath Manchester Central and sitting next to the Spirit of Manchester Distillery, Three Little Words is staffed by bartenders who “obsess over the perfect ingredients and yearn for a creative concoction”. You can settle in for an hour or an evening to enjoy immaculate drinks, intimate corners and an atmosphere you’ll want to “take home with you”.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Three Little Words website here.
Alvarium is the neighbourhood bar with “Manchester at its roots”.
Not only is this popular Northern Quarter hangout a real gem for cocktail lovers – with an extensive menu of both classic and signature tipples – but it should also be top of your list if you’re a dog-lover too as pups are always welcome here.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Alvarium website here.
The Whisky Jar
The Whiskey Jar is a “whiskey bar with a cocktail focus” and it has undoubtedly become one of the Northern Quarter’s favourite spots.
Currently stocking 350+ whiskies, this old textile mill has been beautifully restored with it’s upstairs bar playing host to a range of popular nights over the years, and the fully-functioning basement event space also complete with bar, seating and a fantastic sound system with DJ equipment.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via The Whiskey Jar website here.
One Eight Six
One Eight Six is one of Manchester’s most exciting cocktail clubs, music venues and barbershops hidden away on the main stretch of Deansgate. Whether it’s a traditional cocktail you’re after, or something a little more unique, you’ll find it all on the menu here.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the One Eight Six website here.
Cottonopolis really knows what it’s doing when it comes to cocktails.
If the selection of drinks on offer wasn’t already as extensive enough as it is, there’s now a brand new summer cocktail menu just launched and it couldn’t be more perfect to try out this Bank Holiday weekend.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Cottonopolis website here.
Welcome to your “friendly neighbourhood convenience store”.
Convenience Store is another Northern Quarter gem where everything isn’t initially as it seems. Although it may not look like it, but masked inside this typical corner shop exterior is one of the city’s most original cocktail bars.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Convenience Store website here.
Wolf At The Door
Wolf At The Door is often top of the list for tacos in the city centre, but don’t discount its cocktail menu either, which features a selection of the classics and a couple of originals too.
There’s something for everyone.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Wolf At The Door website here.
Affleck and Brown
Affleck and Brown really is one for cocktail lovers.
With an extensive menu boasting an array of signature cocktails, a collection of the classics, and even a full selection of different Espresso Martini variations too, you just can’t go wrong.
You can find drinks menus, booking details, opening times and more information via the Affleck and Brown website here.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have taken its toll on industries of all shapes and sizes over these past few months, but supporting local/independent business has never been more important than it is right now.
The Manc is #BuzzingToBeBack – find out more about eats in Manchester here.
A new pasta restaurant is opening inside the old Vertigo site on Cross Street
A new restaurant selling freshly made pasta is tipped to open in the old Vertigo unit on Cross Street later this year, proving that when one vegan door closes another one opens.
Pastan, a plant-based pasta kitchen that first began life in London’s Covent Garden in April 2021, has submitted a planning application to take over the site from September.
If successful, it will see the new arrival take over 18 Cross Street, the original home of beloved Manchester vegan eatery Vertigo, which sadly closed its doors in March with bosses citing ‘significantly increased’ running costs.
Co-founded by Dean Fawcett and Jerome Ibanez when the world of hospitality was just beginning to reopen after the second lockdown, Pastan has hosted a number of pop-ups across the country.
It started off as a pop-up in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, before heading to Bristol throughout the summer of 2021 for a second pop-up opened at the Nectar House, Gloucester Road.
Following that, the owners set up a third and final pop-up in Notting Hill from September to November 2021, before opening its first permanent restaurant just around the corner from the capital’s famous Smithfield Market.
Now, it looks like they’re planning to expand into the north with a second restaurant here in Manchester
If successful, going by its London menus the new restaurant will focus on simple, fresh pasta dishes, serving up the likes of fried gnocchi loaded with a choice of sauces including BBQ jackfruit, cheese, pepper or pomodoro, alongside time-tested Italian classics like cacio e pepe and carbonara at lunch.
Elsewhere, you’ll find cavatelli mac and cheese topped with breadcrumbs and crispy onions, plantshakes loaded with donut skewers, Lotus Biscoff mini doughnuts and scoops of ice cream.
Come to the evening things will then be taken up a notch, with a different menu served from 5pm featuring charcoal-activated taglioni served with dill hollandaise, salsa verde-dressed pea and shallot ravioli, and a beetroot hummus-topped cheesy tagliatelle with courgette spaghetti and crunchy veg.
Pastan’s founders have over 20 years of hospitality experience between them but made the decision to set out on their own after struggling to find healthy, plant-based pasta.
With a cooking ethos that swerves away from any refined or unnatural ingredients, it’s sure to be a welcome addition to Manchester’s dining scene – particularly to city centre vegans missing their Vertigo lunch (or dinner) fix.
To find out more ahead of the new opening, head over to Pastan’s social media pages here.
The Greater Manchester delicacies you have to try at least once in your life
Greater Manchester – home of world-famous music, Corrie, two of the world’s biggest football clubs, and, er, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.
We can shout about a lot of things here in the north west, but our local delicacies really are in a league of their own.
Everything from pastry sweets to meaty treats crop up in Greater Manchester’s menu of mouth-watering regional dishes that everyone should try out at least once in their lifetime.
They’re not for everyone, and there’s a good chance that for some of them, the first time you them will be the last, but we’re proud of them all the same.
Here’s some of the best the region has to offer.
A somewhat polarising delicacy, black pudding is a dark sausage made from pig’s blood and fillers such as barley, oats, and suet.
Sure, black pudding may not have wholly originated in Greater Manchester, but there’s definitely a strong argument to be made for Bury black pudding being some of the best, or at least the most celebrated and appreciated, there is out there.
You can get your hands on some hot boiled black pudding from many local markets in the region,
Or you can buy it fresh from the regional produce section at most supermarkets, and you can even eat it locally as a takeaway snack dowsed with malt vinegar.
Something for those with a sweet tooth and an appetite for coconut, Manchester Tart is a traditional English baked tart made up of a shortcrust pastry shell spread with raspberry jam inside, covered with a custard filling, and topped off with flakes of coconut and a cherry.
This was a staple of the 1940s and 50s school dinner, but it’s not as beloved as it once was nowadays.
If you are looking for a blast from the past though, you may be lucky enough to spot it on a specials menu at one of the many British-themed restaurants in the city centre and wider region, or in local supermarkets if you keep your fingers crossed.
It contains the juice of grapes, raspberries and blackcurrants – each in a 3% concentration – which is then flavoured with a selection of delicately-balanced herbs and spices.
It was created by John Noel Nichols in 1908 at 19 Granby Row in Manchester city centre under the name Vim Tonic and even though it’s hard to believe it now, Vimto was originally registered as a health tonic or medicine when it was first created, but was then re-registered as a cordial in 1913.
Nowadays, it’s taken on a life of its own spawning many variations, it’s sold internationally in over 40 countries, and you can get your hands on it at just about any local shop, supermarket, and chippy or takeaway.
Fancy an absolute carb overload?
You can’t go wrong with carbs in the north, and over in Bolton, they’re really taking that statement to heart with this staple delicacy that sees a pasty – preferably meat and potato, and really preferably from the town’s iconic Carr’s Pasties, which’s been “baking perfect pasties since 1938” – and putting it inside a bread roll, also known as a barm cake.
It sounds a lot, but all we can say is just don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – and maybe just make sure you’ve got a glass of Vimto on hand to wash it down with.
Another one for those with a sweet tooth, the Eccles cake – sometimes down as a “squashed fly pie” or “fly cake” – is a centuries-old pastry, of course taking its name from the town of Eccles in Salford, that’s a staple often sold at bakeries and supermarkets around Manchester and Lancashire.
It’s made up of a flaky pastry dough filled with currents, and it’s often topped with a sugary crust.
While it is a sweet pastry, the Eccles cake is actually traditionally eaten with Lancashire cheese to provide a unique sweet and savoury experience, but it’s just as nice however you chose to serve it.
This is probably one of the most famous delicacies on the list.
Mostly associated with the iconic Manchester-based soap Coronation Street, thanks to the fictional Betty Turpin’s hotpot beloved by all the Rovers Return regulars, the Lancashire hotpot remains a hot food staple on tables not just in the region, but right across the UK.
Paying resemblance to a casserole or stew, a Lancashire hotpot is traditionally made with lamb or mutton, onions and stock, and is topped with sliced potatoes, before being cooked low and slow until the potatoes on top go crispy.
If you’re looking for the best hotpot in town, then on over to Annie’s on Old Bank Street.
The rag pudding may have been invented in Oldham, but it’s now considered a specialty all over Greater Manchester, particularly in its hometown, and in Bury and Rochdale
A hearty and meaty dish, with a flavour that’s similar to a meat pie, just minus the crust, a rag pudding is made up of ground beef and onion gravy wrapped in suet, and cooked in a piece of muslin – also known as a rag – to give it its distinct and recognisable shape.
Did you know that the most notable producers of the rag pudding, Jacksons Farm Fayre in Milnrow, still lovingly hand-fold 15,000 of the puddings each week to be dished out to local butchers, delis and chippies across the region?
That’s how popular it is.
Also known as black peas, black eyed peas (no, not the music group), dapple peas, maple peas, and probably more depending on where you come from, parched peas are dried and cooked purple podded peas, which are then soaked overnight and simmered to produce a type of mushy pea.
It’s a delicacy often served with lashings of malt vinegar, and most-commonly served in autumn and winter time, especially known to be a staple on or around Bonfire night.
The dish is popular in Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Wigan, Bolton, Tyldesley and Heywood.
Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls
Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls are (sort of) spherical mints produced by Wm Santus & Co. Ltd in Wigan, which are made from pure cane sugar, oil of peppermint and cream of tartar.
Originally made for miners and ideal for “coughs and sniffles”, they have remained one of the region’s pride and joys for years on end, helping to keep the population “all aglow” since 1898, with it said that around 160,000 mint balls are still made every day, which is around 35 million per year.
They also have their own catchy jingle, which, if you say the name of them to a Mancunian, you’ll likely get a dodgy rendition of sang back to you.
“Suck em’ and see, you’ll agree, they’re the best in all the land”.