Eats

The Font – the beloved Manchester institution where you can still get a cocktail for £1, two decades on

Drinks have only gone up by £1 in 22 years.

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 8th September 2022

Everybody knows The Font. It’s been part of the fabric of Manchester’s bar scene for more than 20 years, famed for its insanely affordable cocktails.

All these years on, you can still get a cocktail here for £1 – admittedly, only during Happy Hour, though even outside that deal you’re only looking at £3 a drink.

When the New Wakefield Street venue first opened in 2000, its niche wasn’t much of a niche at all – it was a cheap watering hole with colourful walls where students would grab a vodka and coke before heading on to the clubs.

But over the years, and with the input of all the faces who’ve worked behind the bar since, its identity evolved into something clearer.

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The Font has been loved by generations of students – and beyond – for its cocktail menu, full of candy floss garnishes, sweet toppings, and ice cream cones.

Its creative menu currently includes jelly shots topped with edible photos of Andy Burnham, a honey-inspired cocktail made with cereal flavoured milk, and a ‘Unicorn Juice’ topped with a twisted edible unicorn horn.

Current specials at The Font. Credit: The Manc Group

The Font is unusual in many ways, one of which is the amount of time it’s hung on in Manchester for while other bars – including its long-lost neighbour Sound Control – crumbled.

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Dan Rinaldi, general manager, has worked here for 15 years and remembers a very different city.

“The bar scene in Manchester was loads smaller,” he says. “The Northern Quarter was maybe just Common, Trof had literally just opened, and maybe Odd? The Ancoats of now didn’t exist. The scene was so limited in some ways.”

So what exactly has given The Font the legs to keep going, even in the tumultuous times the hospitality industry has faced in recent years?

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It’s a combination of authenticity, value, fun, and family atmosphere, Dan says.

“It’s all fun, it’s all about fun, we’re definitely not a serious place.

“We encourage everyone to feel at home here, you can do what you want, come as you are and join in, as long as you’re not causing hassle for anyone else. It’s a safe place.

“One thing we’re very proud of is that if you meet anyone who’s been a student in Manchester any time in the last 20 years, they’ll know us. Everyone knows The Font.

“It’s the perfect starting point to people’s night out, and we get to see everyone at the start of their night when they’re all excited and get them ready to go. That’s our favourite thing.”

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Another remarkable thing about The Font is that their cocktails have only gone up £1 in the 22 years they’ve been open – something Dan admits is ‘difficult’ to maintain.

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He says: “We got really nervous when we put our prices up 50p a few years ago and we were really worried, but most people were like ‘What? That’s still so cheap don’t worry about it’.

“In the current climate we still want to be the place where you can get good value, and we still feel like we can do that well enough, especially with happy hours.”

He continues: “The cocktails, and that’s really what everyone knows us for, were only actually introduced about four or five years after we opened, and the idea came from the staff basically. They decided they wanted to make some cocktails and give it a go, and it all evolved from there.

“Our owner is very good at letting whoever is working here come up with ideas and push them forward – he’s an owner that gives us the chance to express our ideas and influence, and what we pick up from other bars and cities.

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“We can really express ourselves through what we sell and what we do and how we decorate the place and even the music that gets played.”

Part of the magic of The Font is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously – and for those who are new to cocktails, it’s the most fun possible introduction.

Looking back on the history of The Font and its many, many years in the city, Dan has a few fond memories.

The artwork left over from Eurocultured festival new The Font. Credit: The Manc Group

He says: “Way back there used to be a street festival on new Wakefield street called Eurocultured, it ran for quite a few years.

“The street was closed and there was a big stage under the arches near Gorilla, and we’d have bands and DJs on in here, a lot of the artwork on the street is left from the last one of those. It was chaos on the street and chaos in here and it was just so fun.

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“One of our proudest moments was our recovery from Covid – we had outside seating for the first time and it was packed, straight away, and it felt so good to come back from that.

“And all our staff were brilliant and stuck with us through furlough and all that and they all came back, all of them. We managed to keep everyone together which is crazy. It was a very proud moment.”

In the coming weeks, The Font will welcome the next generation of freshers and students, all getting their cocktail crash course.

You can bet they’ll never forget this place. 

Featured Image – The Manc Group