Master Mixology: Cocktail Culture in Manchester

By: Katie Manning

January 17, 2013

Manchester is well known for its inimitable nightlife, but over the past few years the local bar scene has undergone something of a transformation. With the arrival of a fresh, young generation of master mixologists has come a whole host of new cocktail bars, each with a drinks menu more impressive than the next. With many inspired by the city itself, and created using a catalogue of unusual ingredients, this is definitely our kind of alchemy.

Cloud 23

The View from Cloud 23 Bar © Cloud 23


One of the very best places to satisfy your thirst in the city is Cloud 23, located up in the gods on the 23rd floor of Beetham Tower. With incredible views out over the city from cosy leather armchairs, this is a fantastic setting in which to enjoy some of Manchester’s most innovative alcoholic concoctions. Many of the signature drinks are named after notable Mancunians so there’s plenty of opportunity to brush up on your local history in between rounds (well if the conversation is lagging anyway). One of our personal favourites is “Here’s To Baby”, a champagne, vanilla vodka, and spiced peach and rosemary infusion dedicated to Manchester University professors Williams and Kilburn and their 1948 invention – the world’s first working computer, nicknamed “Baby”.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist, Manchester © The Alchemist


Right next to the Manchester Opera House you’ll find another little cocktail gem, The Alchemist.The clue is in the title here, with drinks mixed using molecular drinks-making techniques and often involving a fair bit of theatre. The bartenders here know a thing or two about flavour and the long list of cocktails on offer are created using only the very best fresh ingredients and top quality spirits.  Try “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” for a delicious combination of vodka, elderflower liqueur, Cointreau and fresh fruit boiled up and served in hot smoking tea cups.

Cocktails at The Alchemist

Cocktails at The Alchemist © The Alchemist


Another local favourite is Apotheca Bar in the trendy Northern Quarter District of the city. A popular haunt with creative types and cocktail savvy locals, Apotheca is set in a listed building and decorated with antique pharmacy cabinets – most of which now house spirits instead of medicine.  With its upbeat atmosphere and endless drinks options, even the fussiest of cocktail enthusiasts is sure to be satisfied. Budding mixologists can also hone their skills with a class or two at Apotheca’s very own cocktail academy.


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Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning