On the first day of Xmas my true love gave to me, a shaker and a cocktail brolly
Christmas is well and truly back-ack-ack-ack - and the general approach seems to be full-on, unashamed festivity to make up for last year's broken fairy light of a Yuletide. Even the usual grinches are heading for tinsel town with a bulging sack and a rosy-cheeked grin. Er, we'll still be avoiding them, actually.
If you are trying to squeeze every bit of cranberry juice out of the coming days before the big one, you'll surely have considered a few kitsch cocktails. An evening of sparkly mixed drinks after your Xmas shopping trip - or even in lieu of it - is definitely a more exciting prospect than shuffling around the markets with 10,000 other exasperated people clutching an overpriced mug of gluhwein.
Luckily, Manchester has so many moving and shaking cocktail bars in its midst that you can easily make a crawl of it - and given the booze content, you may well be literally crawling by the end of it. Drink responsibly, folks. Remember you don't have to do all 12 in one night.
Get yer sequins on and get stuck into our favourite Xmas cocktails for 2021.
Where: Albert's Schloss
What: Black Forest Martini
How much: £9.50
Where better to start your Xmas cocktail drinking sesh than Albert's Schloss? This is a bar that manages to feel festive all year round with its apres-ski meets oompah Germanic party vibe. If you're dreaming of a 1970s Xmas this year, your soul might pang for one of those Gloria Hunniford hampers with tinned ham, Fray Bentos pies and a frozen Sara Lee Black Forest Gateau. This liquid, boozy version of a BFG with Beefeater gin, white cacoa, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco cherry liqueur, cranberry, cream and chocolate is far classier than the hamper version but equally as cockle-warming. Schloss, with this alpine treat, you might have peaked already.
Albert's Schloss, 27 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR
Where: The Alchemist
What: Damson In Distress
How much: £10
The Alchemist is well known for its eccentric cocktail creations (that usually come with more dry ice than a Sisters of Mercy gig) and it's not letting us down on that front this year. An essential part of the Christmas feasting season, and for some (i.e. us), the most important part is the cheeseboard. And what goes well with cheese? Wine, of course. The Alchemist has taken this tried and tested combo and made it into a cocktail. Damson in distress features Martel VS Cognac, spiced plum syrup, red wine and - manchego. We'll never get (cheese) bored of this one.
The Alchemist, 1 New York St, Manchester M1 4HD
Where: Bab NQ
What: Chilli and orange hot chocolate
How much: £4.50 + £3.50 for a tot of gin
Mulled wine is alright, but this hot choccy sounds even more a-peel-ing to us as it's packed with zesty orange, spicy chilli and a tot of Sipsmith orange gin and topped with everyone's favourite squirty cream and sprinkles. Even in this frightfully cold weather, you'll be as toasty as a load of kebab meat on a roller grill. While you're sipping, perhaps grab one of Bab's Xmas themed kebabs to put even more fire in your belly. You've got a lot more alcohol to consume yet, you'd be a fool not to line your stomach.
Bab, 14 Little Lever St, Manchester M1 1HR
What: Massala Chaas
How much: £6.50
If you're already feeling like kicking your heels or squeaky shoes off and going for an altogether more laid back approach, Bundobust is the cool, casual but still Christmassy option you're looking for. If you're still peckish, you can pick up some nibbles alongside your drinks here, perhaps some sprout bhajis? There is also a staggering range of beer for any cocktail refuseniks in your party. Martell Brandy, Baileys (a Xmas staple), Ginger of the Indies liqueur are shaken with Bundo's house iced vegan chai and topped with a grating of festive nutmeg. Another Bundo banger.
Bundobust Brewery, St James's Bldg, Bundobust Brewery, 61-69 Oxford St, Manchester M1 6EQ
What: Peppermint crisp
How much: £8.50
The words "peppermint crisp" might bring to mind a box of palate-cleansing, puck-shaped chocolates wrapped in silver, gold and green foil that only seem to come out at Xmas. But did you know, peppermint crisp is also a famous dessert in South Africa? It's a bit like a minty, coconutty version of rocky road made with biscuits, whipped cream, dulce de leche and crunched up peppermint chocolate bars. This liquid version over at Chakalaka is sure to tick your minty Xmas box.
Chakalaka, 105a Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LW
Where: The Font
What: Looking Snow Crazy Right Now
How much: £5
The Font is an infamous student hangout with the main draw being dayglo, cheap and cheerful cocktails the colour of blended My Little Ponies. Of course, it's gone down the festive cocktail route with a trio of drinks all themed around Queen Bey songs. We love a good pun so we're going to tell you all the names: Sleigh My Name, Sleigh My Name, All The Jingle Ladies and Looking Snow Crazy Right Now. Bravissimo, Font. Our pick of the bunch is the latter which is a flurry of marshmallow vodka, Mozart white chocolate liqueur, milk and cream topped with snowflakes and a snowman. You'll be walking in the air after a few of these.
Font, 7-9 New Wakefield St, Manchester M1 5NP
What: Christmas Cosmopolitan
How much: £8
OK, ok Hatch is a little off the beaten track if you're tottering around the city centre but it's worth jumping on a magic bus or taxiing over to soak up the atmosphere of this storage container village under the Mancunian Way. It doesn't get more Christmassy than that, right? In-house cocktail bar 12Ten has muddled up a Christmas Cosmopolitan by switching up the orange note usually provided by Cointreau or Triple Sec for a bit of good old Christmas clementine. It's then added Santa's fave, rum - so not a cosmo at all then really, is it? By now, you'll be too pissed to care. Plenty of food stalls are on hand to provide sustenance on the side, we're particularly enamoured by Abeja Tapas and Tarricrii but you do you.
Hatch, 103 Oxford Rd, Manchester M1 7ED
What: Gin berry crumble tree
How much: £55 (serves six)
What’s better than a glam Xmas cocktail? Six glam Xmas cocktails fashioned into a “tree”, obvs. Manahatta is your Deansgate option and it is Deansgate through and through so don’t expect wallflowers in woolly hats musing over foraged and fermented ingredients. This is all about the party people, loud, proud and storing selfies on an iCloud. You can get a gin berry crumble for one person if you must, and it’ll set you back just under 13 quid, but this is a Christmas cocktail crawl and it’s much more fun (and better value for money) with mates. This one’s got Tanqueray Royale gin, crème de mure, fig, gingerbread, apple and lemon.
Manahatta, 188-192 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3ND
What: Gettin' Figgy With It
How much: £9.15
This one gets top marks for the most creative name and it’s a belter of a mix too. Piccolino has gone all out on the Xmas spirit this year with an Italianised Christmas food menu and a bunch of timely tipples. Featuring Amaretto and French fig liqueur with pureed blackberries, pressed lemon, aromatic cherry bitters and egg white, Gettin' Figgy With It is an ideal alternative (or accompaniment) to your Xmas pudding. Now, bring some right here!
Piccolino, 8 Clarence St, Manchester M2 4DW
What: Gingerbread martini
How much: £7.50
When it comes to Christmas specials, Solita might be more famous for its gravity-defying feats of Xmas burger engineering. But the wagyu wrangling burger brand also does a mean cocktail. Our pick of this year's Xmas range (that also includes a chocolate orange martini, a lemon meringue libation and a mulled wine) is the gingerbread martini. Why? Because it's everything spicy that gets our bells jingling and this blend of gin and ginger is a Christmas cracker.
Solita NQ, Turner St, Manchester M4 1DW
What: Christmas in Chiang Mai
How much: £8
Thaikhun is best known for its fast and fiery Thai street food inspired menu with everything from pad thai to pineapple fried rice - not to mention its stockingful of festive-coloured red and green curries. But it also does a mean cocktail and this year, it's gone all out with its Xmas range. Our pick is Christmas in Chiang Mai which blends Havana Club Cuban spiced rum, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, matcha green tea syrup, double cream and chocolate bitters.
Thaikhun, 3 Hardman St, Manchester M3 3HF
Where: Three Little Words
What: Naughty & Nice
How much: £9.50
He's making a list, he's checking it twice - why the hell can't you be both naughty and nice? Nobody's perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Why the endless threat of presentless punishment from this Santa dude anyway? Who IS he?
Ahem. Anyway, at Three Little Words, you can be both. The glam cocktail bar in an arch has launched its Xmas special, Naughty & Nice, a hot fruit punch tea blended with mead, One-Eyed Rebel rum and a splash of poached pear red wine reduction. Lovely.
Three Little Words, 12-13 Watson St, Manchester M3 4LP
Read next: Top things to do in Manchester for December, Xmas and New Year 2021
Read again: A Manc in London: A Carnaby Christmas shopping trip
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