Here's Neil Sowerby's tips for a well-informed summer session
Oi. You. Put down that Carling Lemon Cooler, and you, drop the Bacardi Breezer... what is this, an episode of Shameless?
Now you haven't got a drink, let's go get a drink... a proper drink. We suggest you begin your education in discerning summer drinking across Manchester right here with Part One, then continue onto the guide below. Chin chin...
M is for Miraval
Rosé time. We’ll spare you the blushes, those horrid, sugary New World pinks or that infantile craving for frosé, the wine frozen into a slush with lemon juice and sugar. Pick of the pinks is the pale, dry Provencal style. One of the best is the high profile (and priced) Chateau Miraval, Cotes de Provence. Its future ownership is uncertain now that Brad Pitt and his chatelaine Angelina Jolie have split. Thankfully for the moment Miraval is going strong, produced for them by the legendary Perrin family. Ethereally pale, strawberries and nectarines on the nose and deliciously crisp on the palate seek it out at Majestic Wine at £19.99.
N is for Negroni
The picture comes from a trip to Alba for the annual Truffle Festival and the standard Negroni served wasn’t a patch on many I’d had in Manchester. Hard to get wrong really – a third gin, a third Campari, a third vermouth rosso with a twist of orange peel. It was created in Florence in 1919 when Count Camillo asked for gin to be substituted for the normal soda water in his Americano and it caught on. I’ve had all kinds of deviations from the Negroni norm, including barrel-ageing, chilli, tequila, addition of bitters and, of course different proportions. My favourite riff on it at the moment is at Bassano, ‘Drinks Enthusiast’ Dave Marsland’s Grappa-centric pop-up bar at Pizza Express First Street. His Spiced Negroni is a heavenly blend of Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum from St Lucia, Campari and Velvet Falernum, a spiced-citrussy sweet liqueur from the Caribbean. Great value at £7, as is his gentle Manchester Negroni, which combines the our own Three Rivers gin with Campari and the bittersweet rosso liqueur Mezzoemezzo. Great view of that trucked in statue of Herr Engels, too.
O is for Orange wine
So what is orange wine? Well, it’s not from oranges, rather a white wine made like a red by fermenting the juice on the skins, resulting in a more full-bodied, tannic wine that can range in colour from golden to deep bronze, depending on the length of skin contact. Supporters, generally from the ‘Natural Wine’ camp, claim it produces a depth of flavour many whites lack. Since natural winemaking (wild yeasts, low sulphites and general non-intervention) can be a challenging hit and miss affair, perhaps best to sample your first orange wine by the glass. They traditionally come from tiny producers Georgia, Slovenia and Croatia, though winemakers elsewhere are championing the style. Cutting edge restaurants such as Stockport’s Where The Light Gets In are likely to offer you a glass as part of their wine flight. Supermarkets are still fighting shy of stocking them but Marks & Spencer’s Georgian Tbilvino Qvevris 2015 (£10), matured in clay amphorae, from Georgia is a delicious, quince-scented introduction. If you get the taste, visit wine Settle merchants Buon Vino https://www.buonvino.co.uk/our..., which has a wide range.
P is for Perry
Our bars are so awash with fruit-flavoured ciders that we neglect the straight version of fermented apple juice and its rarer pear sibling perry, for me the perfect fruity summer drink, dry or sweet. Up in Ocle Pychard in deepest Herefordshire Tom Oliver propagates ancient perry pear varieties on the family sheep farm. That’s when he’s not off with The Proclaimers as their tour manager. He’s regarded as one of the world’s best cider makers, but I’d urge you to try his Classic Perry. You can buy it online direct from the farm https://oliversciderandperry.c... or from specialist booze shops.
Q is for Quinine
Or any excuse to recommend some more gin. It’s a constituent of tonic water, once used as a prophylactic in the fight against malaria, but these days, with a significantly lower quinine content, tonic’s role is as the ‘straight man’ in a G&T (quirky quinine fact: Clarissa Dickson Wright of Two Fat Ladies blamed the copious amounts of tonic water she drank with her gin for her vast girth – the quinine in it damaged her fat controlling adrenal gland). So I advise you to take your Three Rivers, Manchester, Batch and Forest, just four of our great local gins, neat. Well maybe just a splash of Fever-Tree.
R is for Rivington
Sometimes it feels like the city centre craft brewers bag all the attention, yet in far-flung corners of the region some amazing combos of malt, hops and much more are being created by equally bearded blokes. Take Torrside out in New Mills, three home brewers taking the step up at a brewhouse on the Peak Forest Canal Marina. Smoked beers, barley wines, single hop pales, the boys are quietly prolific. To create Paint Your Bandwagon, an amber version of a (ultra trendy) New England IPA, they collaborated with another, quite brilliant brewer, Rivington's Ben Stubbs, who’s based on a farm above distant Horwich. I met Ben there at the launch of his first ‘Tap Beneath The Trees’, just a hot dog stall and a row of taps serving juicy, hazy, cutting edge, ‘farmhouse style’ beers (there’s a follow-up event this August Bank Holiday). I like his cutely titled Rye ’n Gosling but my Rivington fave is Never Known Fog Like It, an apt tile for the murkiest beer I’ve ever sampled, typical of that New England Pale style. It’s hoppy, happy juice personified; you might just catch it at The Brink bar on Bridge Street.
S is for Sour beers
Chorlton Brewing Co’s Mike Marcus recently tweeted: “It's funny that when we put a non-sour beer on our availability list, we have to specifically warn people that it's not sour”. Which sums up the brewery’s unique position in the local scene (note they are not even positioned in Chorlton but on the Piccadilly Beer Mile). So why is sour (and we don’t mean spoiled and undrinkable) beer such a cult hit on the craft beer scene? Influenced by classic European beer styles such as Berliner Weisse, Leipziger Gose and Belgian Lambic and often with added wild yeasts such as Brettanomyces (which adds an earthy, ‘funky’, barnyardy note), modern sours are refreshing, tart and complex beers that marry well with food. Check out Bundobust, whose constant range of sour and ‘saison’ beers suits their spicy street snacks. A good introduction to the style is Chorlton’s gentle Amarillo Sour; more hardcore Magic Rock’s Salty Kiss, a saline Gose with gooseberries and sea buckthorn adding tartness.
T is for Tzakoli
While we’re talking hardcore, this sharp shellfish-friendly Basque white wine style doesn’t take any prisoners despite its low alcohol, the summery green apple fruit from obscure indigenous grapes only reached through piercing acidity. Atlantis Tzakoli (£11.99 from Majesic Wine) makes a convincing case but, if you’re not feeling brave, drop in on Ramsbottom’s glorious pintxos bar, Baratxuri and sample a small copa. Maybe with some Kikotxas, small gelatinous ‘chins’ extracted from just under the cod (or hake’s) mouth.
U is for Uncle Don’s #3
Why bury yourself in a basement during summer. Well, at The Liars Club to soak up some of that rum-drenched Caribbean vibe. Aficonados of cranial annihilation will plump for The Zombie, while those of a quirkier bent will peel off for alcoholic milkshake. I'm happier with Uncle Don's #3 (£8), a sprightly mouthful of grapefruit, absinthe, ginger, rum and a hint of mint. Be warned, though, this homage to Don The Beachcomber, ex-bootlegger and founding father of tiki bars, is described by LC head honcho Lyndon Higginson as “deceivingly deadly.”
V is for Vermouth
This particular drinks writer got very excited by the prospect of Spanish vermut (the aromatised fortified wine vermouth) on handpull at new NQ bar Flok. Not that they are going to serve pints of the potent stuff. The particular one litre bottle pictured, from Casa Mariol, is a black vermut, which has botanical complexity and extra depth from ageing via a sherry-style solera system. You can pick it up retail for around £17, but I’d head down to Flok in Stevenson Square, which also boasts a terrific wine list.
W is for Wheat Beer
Thus summer refresher comes in various styles. Belgian witbiers can be good (though not the ubiquitous, bland Hoegaarden); so too the best Bavarian examples, notably the widely available in bottle Schneiderweisse, still brewed according to the original 1872 recipe. Sniff its creamy head before sipping and you’ll find aromas of banana and cloves. Closer to home Leeds brewery Northern Monk offer their own take on Belgian witbier, developed as the world's first Anglo-Indian craft brewing collaboration – with Mumbai's Gateway Brewing Co. You’ll find a refined version of this Bombay Dazzler at Bundobust; with its own ginger, cardamom and coriander spicing it matches perfectly their Indian vegan food. It’s £4.80 a pint in the Piccadilly Gardens basement bar.
X is for Xérès
Sherry is an anglicisation of Xeres, the original name of Jerez, Southern Spanish epicentre of the world famous fortified wine, whose sales have plummeted in recent years. Because of this there are real bargains to be had if you are fans of aged Oloroso, Amontillado and the remarkable Palo Cortado, but my gut feeling is that sherry’s mainstream future lies with the fresh, zingy, lower in alcohol, food-friendly Manzanillas and Finos. You pay a premium for the new release En Rama Finos, but they are very much in tune with the market for ‘Natural Wines’. A benchmark example, I Think from Equipo Navazos, is on the shelves at city centre restaurant bar El Gato Negro at £6 per 75ml glass or £28 per 375ml bottle. It makes a complex summer tipple. Read my Complete Guide to Sherry.
Y is for Yeastie Boys
Our own Marble Brewery are enthusiastic online about their recent £2.90 a can collaboration with these iconoclastic Kiwi brewers: “Have you ever had a hop hug? Let us embrace you in a Liquid Cuddle. This NZ Maibock (hoppier and lighter than a traditional Bock beer) spills a kaleidoscope of passion fruit, citrus and Melon Ball flavours followed by a toasty aromatic finish.” The Yeasties’ own range is pretty spectacular, too. The UK versions of some of their more popular beers have been brewed at Brewdog in Aberdeen – the plan was to ensure freshness – but the expansionist self-styled punk brewers are ditching the deal. Still, seek out any imported bottles. We just can’t get enough of those New Zealand hops such as Sauvin, aromatically echoing the Sauvignon grapes that grow alongside.
Z is for Zymorgium
You a fan of those old-fashioned parma violet sweets? Zymurgorium’s Sweet Violet Gin Liqueur (made with violets) eerily replicates that taste while not jettisoning its gin kick. Perfect for a garden tipple with lemonade or splashed on ice cream. Founder and keen forager Aaron Darke named the distillery/meadery after a greek mythological figure and this product has its own ancient antecedents. Zeus created violets for his mortal lover Io, placing them in the meadows where she walked. Produced in Irlam.