THIS is a list of bars that are proper bars, not mostly restaurants with a bar, not hotel bars and not pop-up bars. Nor is it a list of pubs that are bar-like, such as the Castle on Oldham Street. 

Hotel bars and those that make up part of a restaurant will be covered in other 'best of' lists.

Thus in our pursuit of the best bars pure and simple we've struck on a curious thing. Destination bars tend to be independent, tend to cater for a younger crowd, tend to be very music driven. Perhaps it's less curious than merely logical. 

Bars also tend to be extremely hard to get in touch with. 

No matter, here's our list of the finest in the city centre and university areas. It's in alphabetical order not rank order.

If we've missed one of your favourites let us know in the comments below.

3 Hardman Street, Spinningfields, City, 0161 817 2950, M3 3HF. Web
Sun-Tue 10am-12am; Wed-Thu 10am-1am; open late Bank Holidays.
This bar’s interior is as sharp and slick as people who use it, but with a traditional element given vent through a spectacular back bar and clock. Tarnished wooden cabinets filled with test-tubes and skulls give a quirky edge and feed the theme of the Alchemist, the scientist cum philosopher of yore who attempted to turn base metals into gold – here they turn money into alcohol. Cocktails are brewed like potions using apparatus such as bunsen burners, decanted from conical flasks and finished with a syringe full of exotica. The place is a popular eating spot as well with snacky world cuisine. Heated outdoor seating area, good place for warm-up drinks and cocktails, but also open late for those in for the long-run.
Crowd: Suited professionals out for after-work drinks, age range 22-40, smarter, glamorous and vibrant crowds on Thursday-Saturday evenings
Entertainment:  DJ Sets on Fri-Sat, 10pm – 2am
Best Cocktail or House Special: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with cointreau, elderflower liqueur, passion-fruit, strawberries, orange, lemon grapefruit rind and mint
Signature dish (if applicable): Chicken in a Basket – Cajun spiced chicken in batter, chips, slaw and homemade BBQ sauce
Children allowed: Until 7pm
Disabled access: Full


17 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, City, 0161 834 9411, M4 1FS. Web
Sun-Wed 12pm –12:30am; Thu-Sat, 12pm – 1am
A Grade II listed building, with its name derived from its past life as a pharmacy. Its low level lighting, dark leather interior and heavy velvet curtains give a Gothic feel. Interlinked through a door to Dough restaurant next door, Apotheca is a great place to move onto afterwards. 53 cocktails on offer. Cabinets of glass bottled liquids and drawers of medicine carry the Apotheca theme. There’s a cinema screen downstairs which in summer 2012 was showing Wimbledon and Olympics all summer.
Crowd: Post-work professionals, eclectic and indie crowds who enjoy the Manchester local bar scene and livelier groups on a weekend. Age range 25–40+
Entertainment: DJs Fri-Sat, ‘Pick your Poison’ Quiz night, Sun and Happy Mondays
Best Cocktail: Enter the Dragon – Sipsmith gin, martini, lychee liqueur, wasabi, lime, chilli, jasmine syrup, green tea and pressed apple juice.
Offers: 2 for £9 cocktails everyday (Sat–Sun until 7pm)
Signature dish: Pizzas from next door at Dough 
Children allowed: Until 7pm, but Dough is family friendly
Disabled access: Yes, to ground floor


Big Hands
296A Oxford Road, 0161 272 7309, M13 9NS. Web
Mon-Thur 10am-2am; Fri 10am-3am; Sat 11am-3am; Sun 6pm-1am
Big Hands is an integral thread in the fabric of Manchester’s drinking scene to the extent that it appears here despite being located next to Manchester Academy, a few miles out of the city centre. The dingy lo fi aura of the place accentuates the sense of history and personality which is distinctly lacking in any other bars within the vicinity; consequently, Big Hands is the universally acknowledged spot for a post-gig drink and the ideal place for a swift pint on Oxford Road. Newcomers may be unhappy, even appalled (I haven’t seen the ladies), by the state of the toilets but this is all par for the course in a bar that revels in its indie appeal and its rough around the edges aesthetic. Keep your eyes peeled for band members if that’s how you get your rocks off.
Crowd: Mixed age group of mellow pre and post gig-goers mingling with musicians they’ve just watched.   
Entertainment: DJs and live music
Best Cocktail or House Special: Beers and whiskies
Children allowed: Until 7pm
Disabled access: No

Big HandsBig Hands

Black Dog NQ
Corner Tib Street/ Church Street, Northern Quarter, City. 0161 839 0664, M4 1PW. Web
Noon– 4am every day.
New York style speakeasy diner; a perfect location for city slickers to kick back and relax. It has a laid back feel with booths and leather couches for schmoozing, with a pool table lounge and dance floor, for when the night comes to life. Last year it was Confidential’s Bar of the Year given because this is a lively, drinking den, where decent food, cocktails and spirits and beers meet up with a good-looking trendsetting crowd. A door policy of not attracting the idiots in helps immensely. There's no emphasis on a 2-4-1 desperation drinks game either and the music makes sense, helping along the jolly and hectic mood.
Crowd: A mixed bag, age range 20–50, professionals, Northern Quarter trendies, locals, those wanting a late night out without the rowdy atmosphere and 2am brawls.
Entertainment: Resident DJs Thurs – Sat, Special DJ clash nights, Cocktail Master Classes,
Best Cocktail: Weekend Rockstar – Jack Daniels, Jagermeister, Caramel and Cherry Bitters
Signature dish: Brucie Bonus Pizza – all the meat you can think of swimming in cheese. Northern Quarter Pounder 
Children allowed: Until 8pm. 
Disabled access: No

Black Dog BallroomBlack Dog Ballroom

Cloud 23
Deansgate Hilton Manchester, Deansgate, City, M3 4LQ. Web
Mon-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 4.30pm-2am; Sun 5pm-midnight
Manchester’s tallest drinkerie, halfway to heaven in the Hilton and included here because it might be in a hotel but it’s so far from reception it almost counts as being a separate entity. There is a special express lift on the ground floor of the hotel taking you directly to the 23rd floor of the 47 storey building. Upon entering the bar itself, the first and most striking thing you notice is the view across Manchester and beyond – which itself is a good enough reason to drink there. Furthermore, Cloud 23 oozes taste, from an impressive selection of cocktails and champagnes on offer to Dean Martin on the sound system. Worth a visit for the views alone, beware though it is expensive and the service can be snail slow.
Crowd: Tourists, conference delegates, people with a view on life and a bit of dosh
Entertainment: Private hire lounges, cocktail making classes, and rooms can be hired for weddings and civil ceremonies
Best Cocktail or House Special: Number of signature cocktails, champagnes and long drinks. Alexandra Park, an interesting mix including vodka and balsamic vinegar, is recommended.
Signature dish: David Gale's lovely take on dim sum
Children allowed: Until 5pm
Disabled access: Yes

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Edge Street, City, 0161 832 9243. M4 1HW. Web
Mon-Wed 5pm-midnight; Thu-Sat 5pm-2am
Nestled in the heart of The Northern Quarter, stomping ground for Manchester’s bohos Common is a glowing gem of a bar that eschews the air of exclusivity and pretension which characterises others – indeed the manager seemed dazed about what were his best drinks and food, laid-back in the extreme. The walls display a constantly mutating mix of street art and cartoonish doodles which are lovingly stripped and redrawn by local artists with a regularity that could keep the most ADD alcoholics returning week after week. The back room of the bar, ‘The Kestrel Suite’, is a more toned down affair with a working men’s club style in contrast to the hyperactive murals next door. It’s canny, funny, and an unintimidating part of the Northern Quarter with a crowd to match.
Crowd: Very Northern Quarter people with their offbeat, off the wall, vintage eclecticism.
Entertainment: Sat,‘Friends in Common’, DJs and eclectic range of club nights, Wed, twice monthly quiz
Best Cocktail or House Special: Maple Syrup Manhattan  
Signature dish if applicable: Lamb Kofta Kebab - Homemade spiced lamb skewers grilled to order on a warmed flatbread with houmous, mixed salad, tzatziki, mayonnaise and whole jalapenos.
Children allowed: Until 7pm
Disabled access: Yes


Deaf Institute 
135 Grosvenor Street, City, 0161 276 9350, M1 7HE. Web
Mon-Thu 10am-1am; Fri 10am-3am; Sat 10am-4am; Sun 10am-1am
A staple of any self respecting student’s drinking schedule and part of the Trof empire, The Deaf Institute boasts a calendar bursting at the seams with regular nights catering for the full spectrum of musical tastes from soul and swing to rap and reggae. If blindly groping strangers and trying to remember where you live on a weeknight isn’t your style, however, Deaf Institute still has plenty to offer across the three floors. The bar has a refreshingly open minded approach to hiring live acts and their list of upcoming shows are always worth a perusal. If the recent Trof outlet Gorilla keeps up the good work that will make this list soon - click here.
Crowd:Studenty but frequented by locals all wanting a mix of music and easy style.
Entertainment: Big sporting events are screened consistently, open mic nights are held on Sunday and the quiz on Wednesday is the liveliest quiz night south of Mancunian Way. But mainly music all the way with gigs galore.
Best Cocktail or House Special: The Zombie cocktail
Signature dish: The Trof burger
Children allowed: Until 7pm
Disabled access: Main  room only 

Deaf InstituteDeaf Institute

Unit 1a, Great Northern Tower, Watson Street, City. 0161 834 8802, M3 4EE. Web 
Mon-Wed 2pm–12am; Thurs 2pm–1am; Fri-Sat 2pm–2am; Sun 12pm-12am.
Epernay Champagne and Cocktail Bar wants to gush romance with its twinkling fairy lights, candle wax caked Moet bottles housing single red roses, rustic brick walls and stylish offerings of antipasti and cheeses.  Perhaps the perfect place for a date or for after work drinks with friends, though later on it transforms into a buzzing venue attracting a professional and tasteful crowd with its impressive range of champagnes and cocktails on offer. 
Crowd: Aspirational, early after-work and weekend office types. Much more town than gown, with a sprinkling of high heels glamour.
Entertainment: DJs, live music pop up events and cocktail/champagne master classes. 
Best Cocktail: The Pornstar – Passion fruit, Vanilla, Butterscotch Martini and a shot of Champagne. 
House Special:  House Ayala Champagne  
Signature dish: Antipasti and cheese boards.
Children allowed: No 
Disabled access: Full 



Gas Lamp
50 Bridge Street, City, 0161 478 1224, M3 3BW. Web
Mon-Fri 4pm-midnight; Sat noon-2am; Sun noon-midnight
An eccentric basement bar located in the former kitchens of a street children's mission. It's tiles throughout in a clinical yellow washdown shade that should make the bar the most alarming to be inside in central Manchester. Yet strangely it all works out well especially the backroom with daylight coming down a fire-escape stairwell with an upside bike ascending - you have to see it to understand. With good spirits, good ales and wines Gaslamp somehow elevates itself above all those tiles.
Crowd: Those in Spinningfields and west of Deansgate who want a Northern Quarter vibe
Entertainment: DJs including Abbatoir Blues
Best Cocktail or House Special: Real ales, cider and spirits 
Signature dish (if applicable): Homemade pork scratchings 
Children allowed: No
Disabled access: No

Gas LampGas Lamp

11 Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, City. 0161 228 7421, M1 1DB. Web
Sun-Thu 5pm–2am; Fri–Sat 5pm–3am
In this underground lair, wild spirited staff serve up one of the best catalogues of cocktails in the city. With over 100 imported rums there’s plenty of palate-teasing concoctions to be had. Small but perfectly formed, there’s enough spare space to throw a few shapes too making this a bit more than your average bar. Music is a mixed up as the drinks, but gets everyone to their feet nonetheless. 
Crowd: 18-35 dancing mavericks who like put on a bit of a fashion show to upbeat grooves 
Entertainment: DJs, dancing 
Best Cocktail or House Special: Those 100 of the finest imported rums, ask for recommendations and the staff will fall over themselves giving them 
Children allowed: No
Disabled access: No


Liars Club
19A Back Bridge Street, City, 0161 834 5111. M32 PBU. Web
Mon-Wed, Sun 5pm-midnight; Thu 5pm-1am; Fri-Sat 5pm-2am
Tiki freaky with endless Tiki paraphernalia collected by Captain Lyndon from around the world complete with palm trees and bamboo clad walls. The venue is a basement that is lush and seedy all at the same time, one of those places where time disappears and suddenly its five in the morning and you're in trouble at home because, "Honest, love, no honest, there was no signal and in any case my battery had run out, and maybe I'd had one to many drinks...what perfume smell?" 
Crowd: Youthful professionals getting jiggy into the early hours with the odd stray forty something and the odd blonde lush
Entertainment: DJ,s Quizzes, Live Acts and so on): Monthly rum society events & private cocktail masterclasses are available to book
Best Cocktail or House Special: The Zombie - we sell more of these than anything else
Children allowed: No
Disabled access: No


Matt & Phreds 
64 Tib Street, Northern Quarter, City, 0161 839 7187/7002. M4 1LW. Web
Mon-Thu Sun 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat 5am-3am.
With thick red velvet curtains, trilby hats galore and atmosphere so thick you need a hedge trimmer to get to the bar, Matt & Phreds is the prime jazz venue in the city centre. Live music as delectable as their pizza is on six nights a week and entry is free from Monday to Thursday. The bar attracts a diverse but mellow crowd and the staff are friendly to the point where you almost expect them not to charge you for the drinks. The highlight of the bar’s calendar is the jam session which takes place every first Monday of the month where anyone is invited to join the band on stage. The night evokes the true spirit of jazz in its spontaneity and improvisational flare and should be considered as one of the most entertaining nights in the city centre (even if you don’t own a scarf or fancy yourself as the next Miles Davis).
Crowd: Jazz fans of all ages and others craving the grubby indie spirit
Entertainment: Gigs, yes jazz ones
Best Cocktail or House Special:
Signature dish (if applicable): Home-made pizza
Children allowed: No
Disabled access: No

Matt And Phred'sMatt And Phred's

Night and Day Cafe
Oldham Street, City, 0161 236 1822, M1 1JN. Web.
Mon-Sat 10am-2am; Sun 11am-12pm
If you’re a fan of live music you will love this folky café bar which hosts an eclectic range of electro, jazz, indie, rock, hip-hop and acoustic gigs every day.  Artists include international touring bands, local singers and bands and up and coming artists.  Its standing on a busy city street makes it a popular venue for locals, but as each band brings along its own audience, a diverse crowd frequents here. Night and Day boasts an impressive absinth collection and selection of draught beers and also has a food available.
Crowd: Eclectic musical remit, indie crowds, students and those looking for a casual after work beer
Entertainment: Live bands almost every day, Clubs Nights, DJs and Art Exhibitions
Best Cocktail or House Special: Jesus Juice
Signature dish: Night and Day Homemade Burger -served with gherkins, chutney, coleslaw, salad and chips
Children allowed: until 7pm
Disabled access: Yes 

Night and DayNight and Day

Odd Cafe
Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, City, 0161 833 0070. M4 1ER. Web.
Sun-Wed 11am-midnight; Thu 11am-1am; Fri-Sat 11am-1.30am
Now one of the older of the indie bars with offshoots in Chorlton and amongst the students on Oxford Road. It's a fun, mismatch venue with tables covered with old school wham and Rod Stewart records, shelves holding collections of ornamental tat: generally colourful cosy décor. There's mismatch wooden chairs and an stylish indoor-outdoor theme with bunting and trellis around the walls – but not OTT. It get's very busy for lunch and is a popular venue on a weekend.
Crowd: Northern Quarter clever sods watered down at the weekend by suburbanites touristing in the area.
Entertainment: DJ Thurs-Sat, Quiz on Wed, 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month – Live bands, poetry and open mic nights.
Best Cocktail or House Special: Mortsubite Cherry Beer 
Signature dish: Lamb Kofta and Tzatzyiki Pitta with Fries 
Children allowed: Until 7pm
Disabled access: Yes

Odd BarOdd Bar

Port Street Beer House
39-41 Port Street, City, 0161 237 9949, M1 2EQ. Web
Tue-Thurs 4pm-midnight; Fri 2pm-midnight; Sat noon- 1am; Sun noon- midnight 
As the name suggests Port Street Beer House is an establishment designed for those whose taste in ale goes above and beyond the standard swill. Hidden away on the corner of the eponymous Port Street and the aptly named Brewer Street, this treasure trove is brimming over with craft beers, real ales, and unique brews - both UK, US and from round the world. The bar regularly hosts beer festivals and meet the brewer events ensuring the customers cultivate as close a relationship as possible with their tipple of choice and the brewers get to see their creations being put to good use. The bar’s interior resembles a stripped down pub with a deceiving amount of room to accommodate the gallons of personality that exudes from the walls. Nice beer garden out back as well. Although only having been open for two years, Port Street Beer House was recently named one of the top ten spots for craft beers by The Guardian securing its position as one of Manchester’s unmissable drinking holes.
Crowd: A cool younger crowd with men in their twenties sporting beards and flat caps and the sort of women who choose not to read 'Fifty Shades...' The odd CAMRA fella as well.
Entertainment: Meet the Brewer events and Beer Festivals
Best Cocktail or House special: Dive in and sample away, two many specials to focus on one 
Children: Yes
Disabled Access: yes 

Port Street BeerhousePort Street Beerhouse

Richmond Tea Rooms
Richmond Street. City, 0161 237 9667, M1 3HZ. Web
Mon-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri 10am-11pm; Sat 9am-11pm; Sun 9am-10pm

You almost forget you’re in central Manchester here as the outdoor presentation and indoor decor is quaint and rustic. This is a fantasy of a teashop in a quaint country village. The traditional tea room has an impressive range of different blends on offer, and the OTT decor is said to be Tim Burton inspired. The cocktail lounge has a number of quirky fixtures and fittings with enough interesting bits and pieces in the antique cabinets to keep you interested whilst you choose from a wide range of cocktails. The tea room opens every morning, and the cocktail lounge is open from 4pm on weekdays, 1pm from weekends.
Crowd: Mature gay venue in the village but welcoming to all comers and much more sedate and comfortable than the meat markets round on Canal Street
Best Cocktail or House Special: About to release a new revamped cocktail menu
Signature dish: Black pudding and bacon salad
Children allowed: Until 8pm
Disabled access: Limited disabled access

Richmond Tea RoomsRichmond Tea Rooms

Grosvenor Street, All Saints, 0161 273 1552, M1 7HL. Web
Mon-Wed 12 noon-midnight; Thu 12 noon-1am; Fri-Sat 12 noon-2am; Sun 12 noon-midnight
Sandbar is a popular watering hole for students and lecturers alike, not to mention locals. The simple, no thrills decor in a late-Georgian house gives the bar a warm, friendly, and approachable atmosphere. Sandbar is appreciated for its extensive collection of imported German beers, and beers from local micro breweries. It is listed in CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) Good Beer Guide. Building on this enviable reputation, Sandbar is also developing its spirits cabinet; now stocking close to one hundred different whiskies.
Crowd: Lecturers reading papers, pale poets reading verse, post-grads, students and overspill from the much louder Deaf Institute over the road.
Entertainment: Wide range of events, including art workshops and live music
Best Cocktail or House Special: Augustiner Helles
Signature dish: Pan roasted chicken breast stuffed with spinach, garlic and mushroom
Children allowed: Until 9pm, with parent or guardian
Disabled access: Limited disabled access 


1 Canal Street, City. O161 236 4593. M1 3HE. Web
Mon-Thu noon-11; Fri-Sat noon-1am; Sun noon-10.30pm
The original laid-back Village venue. Taurus more than a decade ago slowed the pace of the frenetic Canal Street scene with an easier-going style where people could drink, eat and meet in pleasant surroundings and without pressure from their peers straining to 'have fun'. The bar’s concept draws heavily on astrology hence the name. Customers are drawn to the chilled and unpretentious feel, to which good cocktails, leather sofas, delicate lighting and a gently soulful playlist all contribute. Definitely one of the most civilised places in The Village whether for food or slacking.
Crowd: Young and old from all backgrounds, a true Cheers variety
Entertainment: Art exhibitions, theatre, music
Best Cocktail or House Special: Espresso Martinis and Ritz Fizz
Signature dish: Lamb Henry, slow roasted lamb shank
served with a minted pea mash and a red wine jus
Children allowed: Yes
Disabled access: Yes


Canal Street, City, 0161 236 9003, M1 3HE. Web
Mon-Wed 4pm-12.30am; Thu 3pm-1am; Fri-Sat 4pm-2am; Sun 2pm-12.30am
 Velvet is a restaurant, bar and hotel all rolled into one. The bar area is on the ground floor – actually up a few steps – and is compact, colourful, cosy and normally rammed with people. The purple paint job in particular gives the place a relaxed vibe. Unlike your average bar, a big TV screen is discreetly placed behind a set of curtains for broadcasts the management deem worth showing. There are a number of offers available, including a happy hour running from 4-7pm, seven days a week. The stairs down to the restaurant contain a famous fish tank – no honestly in Manchester that fish tank is famous. Happy hour 4-7pm, seven days a week.
Entertainment: Has a big screen for football matches, and will show Olympics coverage. There is a DJ at weekends from 10pm
Best Cocktail or House Special: Glitterball: a house cocktail which contains, as you may have guessed, edible glitter.
Signature dish: Sunday roast
Children allowed: No
Disabled access: Yes