Take notice or you might end up missing the best drinks in Manchester

Blink and you’ll miss them. They’re everywhere. Hiding down alleyways, behind the facades of flower shops, at the back of laundrettes and more often than not they’re underground. No, we’re not talking about the people who put mayo on a fry-up, we’re talking about some of Manchester’s best cocktails. They all seem to be served from bars with a touch of the clandestine about them.

More often than not you’ll go to these places with people for the first time and just like clockwork, they’ll reveal “I didn’t know this was here.” A lingering theme for better or worse. We’re here to shed a light, tell you where they all are and what to expect so next time you’re out you can feign a masterful level of speakeasy expertise.

“You didn’t know this was here?” you’ll say, before sipping on something that tastes all the better for being served somewhere that most people would casually walk past. 

Here’s our round-up of hidden cocktail bars in Manchester

The Secret Front Door Of Behind Closed Doors In The Northern Quarter In Manchester
That unassuming door in the middle is hiding all sorts of smutty cocktail indulgence Image: Confidentials

Behind Closed Doors

"Sex, rugs and funk ‘n’ soul", so goes the strapline of the Northern Quarter’s Behind Closed Doors. One of multiple hidden cocktail bars on Oldham Street, the neon-drenched basement bar will be familiar to some as “the porny one”. If you love a sprinkling of vintage erotica you’re in for a treat, with screens throughout the bar, which is walk-ins only, beaming some notably explicit visuals. Drinks-wise, the menu continues the theme nodding to smut and playful experimentation. Lots of whipped cream, lots of sprinkles and names like Penis Colada and Ne-Groan-I. Open until late, a proper night out on Oldham Street isn’t complete without a stumble down those stairs.

93 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LW

The Daisy An Underground Cocktail Bar In The Northern Quarter In Manchester
Lots of fun to be had underground in the Northern Quarter Image: The Daisy

The Daisy

Next time you walk into Evelyn’s in the Northern Quarter, go downstairs. That’s where The Daisy is. An underground, open-plan living room of sorts with a bar at the end and a DJ in the corner. Last time we were down there, the bar had a touch of the modern gothic about it owing to all the candles and their cascading molten wax. Inside it’s a casual affair, think slouchy sofas and furniture that separates it from its more formal, upright table and two chairs counterparts.

The Daisy will do you a quality glass of wine and a solid beer but its cocktails are well worth sampling. The headliner is the self-titled Daisy, which matches Ketel One vodka, bergamot, Aperol, grapefruit and lemon with the theatre of blowtorched rosemary smoke and an intriguing drinking vessel. Open Thursday to Sunday, until 1am or late.

44 Tib St, Manchester M4 1NB

The Downstairs Bar At District Thai Oldham Street Manchester
Serious underground future vibes at District Image: Confidentials


If you think District, with its Bladerunner-inspired futuristic interiors, is a contrast to Oldham Street wait until you head down to the bar underneath. At District, drinks are called liquids and although that’s probably not going to jive with your da, it’s his loss. The new wave Thai restaurant’s neon-lit basement bar offers a row of booths for you to sit and consume cocktails including Robots Blood (lemongrass gin, butterfly pea flower, citrus) and Dream Gun (grilled banana bourbon, milk of the poppy, turmeric).

Cocktails, which come in vivid colours in keeping with the restaurant’s vibe, are served from small, minimalist milk bottles and poured over ice printed with the restaurant’s logo. There’s also a collaborative beer (THAI_PA) with Shindigger if you prefer hops. Open until late, replicants welcome.

60 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE

Cocktails Outside Northern Quarter Cocktail Bar Dusk Til Pawn Which Mimics A Pawn Shop
More like Lash Converters, am I right? Image: Dusk til Pawn

Dusk til Pawn

Don’t be fooled, Dusk til Pawn is not going to give you 5p per DVD and a few quid for your watch. Just like Cash Converters is not going to give you a Bloody Mary. Sat on Stevenson Square next to fellow sibling Noho (Wood & Co and Cooper Hall are also part of the family), with guitars and pawnshop neon in the window, don’t fall for the facade. Cocktails are what's exchangeable inside.

Fun, prohibition vibes lay therein with plenty of indulgence. The Pawnographic packs Pampero Especial, Mozart Dark Chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and Ms Better Bitter Foamer whilst the Watermelon Snapper involves a mix of Akvavit, watermelon shrub, lemon, celery bitters, acid and saline. Remember, you’re coming out with less money than what you went in with.

Sevendale House, Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DN

Lost Cat A Cocktail Bar On Oldham Street In The Northern Quarter In Manchester
Nothing to see here, definitely no cocktails behind that shutter Image: Confidentials

Lost Cat

Nothing to see here. Just a flower shop on Oldham Street. You can’t drink a plant (questionable). But wait a minute, is that the throb of bass, bouncers and the shaking of ice in the background? Rumbled. Lost Cat is a cocktail bar spanning two floors next to the Castle Hotel and sat atop Bunny Jackson’s dive bar spin-off, Junior Jacksons. As casual as its dive bar cousins and already an Oldham Street stalwart, it’s also got a pretty wide selection of cocktails.

Generous spritz options, multiple house G&Ts and a cocktail resumé with a commitment to the classics: “We’d be thrilled to make you any classic cocktail you fancy; if we’ve got the booze, we’ll make it”, says the menu. But you'll also find unique drinks like the affectionately named Frantic Mother (gin, Aperol, grapefruit sherbert, prosecco) and Topless Con-artist (gin, dry vermouth, exotic fruit syrup, lemon, absinthe).

64 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE

Hobo Punch Cocktail In A Bag At Manchester Dive Bar Saltdog Slims
Hobo Punch - subterranean neon edition Image: Confidentials

Salt Dog Slim’s

Some people might tell you Salt Dog Slim’s isn’t a cocktail bar. Cute. Admittedly, it’s more of a dive bar - owing to its extensive graffiti, pool table and hotdogs - but if you’ve got the sort of steez that those salty Scousers do, you’re definitely a cocktail bar. It’s also hidden. tucked away on Bow Lane, a regrettably pissy alleyway off Cross Street, so it makes the list.

Hobo juice is a low-key, scumbag cocktail if ever there was one. Bombay dry gin, Buckfast and citrus served in a squat, 35cl style bottle enclosed in a brown paper bag. Elsewhere there’s When Lola Met Brando (Jack Daniels, Amaretto, Cherry Coke) and Salt Dog Millionaire (Bacardi, Bacardi Oro, apricot, sloe gin, passionfruit, pineapple, mango, citrus). Important to note it’s not open on Monday or Tuesday. Every other day, knock yourself out.

17 Bow Ln, Manchester M2 4FW

The Former Kebab Shop Front Of Sammys Cocktail Bar In Manchester
Get bossman to sort you out Image: Sammy's Cocktail Bar

Sammy’s Cocktail Bar

A few need to knows for Sammy’s: it’s not a kebab shop anymore, it’s a bar. Sammy is a real man, he’s called Sammy Shonn, he set up a street food business in London before coming back to his Manchester roots to set up a legendary cocktail bar. Inside, Sammy’s is notably aesthetically pleasing. Like a 70s Wimpy bar, albeit very light and yellow. Sammy definitely had a film set in mind when he was crafting his vision.

It’s all about hospitality at Sammy’s and weekends go down like house parties. Raucous. Open Tuesday to Sunday, the drinks are whatever Sammy’s making and there’ll usually be three types of tinny on offer too. He’s been known to do a Strawberry and Basil Martini, he’s been known to do a Berry Collins. No matter what he conjures up, Manchester’s all the better for having him. Go join the party.

26 Swan St, Manchester M4 5JQ

The Bar At Science And Industry A Hidden Cocktail Bar Above Cane And Grain In Manchester
Not to be confused with the museum of the same name Image: Science & Industry

Science & Industry

Not to be confused with the museum of the same name, Science & Industry is a table serviced world of wood panelling and quality cocktails tucked away on the second floor of Cane & Grain in the Northern Quarter. Think speakeasy vibes. Green bankers lamps, leather banquette seating and a long mirror behind the bar.

With regards to what’s being poured into your cup, you’re in good hands. A self-described cocktail bar and dedicated drinks laboratory, Science & Industry happily mixes the classics with more experimental options. Theirs is a menu that sits a solid Old Fashioned alongside the likes of a Little Richard (Fair vodka, citrus sherbet, lemon juice, pampelle, Bittermen's Tiki Bitters, whites) and a Girder Swizzle (Atlantico Platino, Irn Bru Falernum, mint leaves, yellow chartreuse, lime). Live music Sundays too.

Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP

A Track 11 Cocktail Aka A White Negroni At Speak In Code In Manchester
Track 11 AKA a white Negroni Image: Speak In Code

Speak in Code

Here’s how on the DL Speak In Code is, it's physically underneath our office with an entrance on Jackson's Row. If you needed persuading, it was the highest-ranked Manchester cocktail bar at last year’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars, placing tenth. Not bad at all and needless to say the plaudits have made it a popular spot so it’s worth booking to avoid disappointment.

Whilst other cocktail bars of Code’s calibre might opt for a more formal preppy waistcoats and waxed moustaches vibe, Speak in Code is comfortably at ease with itself. Hip hop on the speakers, track numbers as cocktail names and tasteful vinyl record beermats are hints of the bar’s passion for music but it’s nothing overbearing. Taste and visuals reflect the craft put into each drink. Track 11 (Elderflower-infused Sipsmith dry gin, Génépi, homemade white Charentes, homemade botanical bitters), a white Negroni, is a personal favourite worth multiple spins.

7 Jackson's Row, Manchester M2 5ND

A Close Up Of A Classic Martini At Schofield Bar In Manchester One Of The Best Things To Drink In February 2022
A classic Martini, a stone's throw from Deansgate Image: Confidentials

Schofield’s Bar

Even though it’s on a street over the road from The Blues Kitchen and isn’t particularly clandestine, the modest pitch that Schofield’s takes up on Little Quay Street is easily overlooked by the throngs of people out in full force on Deansgate of a weekend. Relaxing but still well-dressed, formal but welcomingly so, if you want a high-quality cocktail from someone in an impeccably ironed shirt, it’s a solid bet.

Open Wednesday to Sunday with booking a must, drinks are elegant and delicious. The Clover Club (Bombay Sapphire gin, Schofield’s dry vermouth, raspberry, lemon, egg white) has become an in-house classic whilst in a city where "margs" are a reoccurring theme, Tommy’s Margarita (Patrón Silver tequila, lime, agave) is a thing of beauty in its squat frosted glass. 

Keep an eye out for the Schofield's helmed Sterling too. Taking over the former vault of The Stock Exchange Hotel, it's sure to be another off-the-beaten-track gem.

3 Little Quay Street Sunlight House, Manchester M3 3JZ

The Front Of Hidden Cocktail Bar The Washhouse In Shudehill Manchester
Go in clean, come out dirty Image: Confidentials

The Washhouse

This is the one you came for. You want to walk through a door that looks like something seemingly innocent and tremble with the realisation of walking into a bar. It’s a thrill and The Washhouse is here to deliver. Unassuming Shudehill laundrette at the front, party time at the back. Booking is advised.

But what of the world behind the laundrette? Well. You don’t think any of that novelty is wasted, do you? Jah Makin Me Crazy (mango, chilli, lime, rum) comes in a takeout container whilst Bloody Nora (beef dripping fat washed vodka, clarified tomato juice, pepper) comes in a Martini glass. Wacky and experimental but not to the point of mockery. One for the ‘gram.

19 Shudehill, Manchester M4 2AF

The Inside Of Underground Cocktail Bar Wood And Co In Manchester
Subterranean delights await at Wood & Co Image: Confidentials

Wood & Co

I’m just going to say it. Wood & Co is underrated. It’s underground, it’s set up nicely for big and small groups, the staff are unpretentious and accommodating, it’s never frustratingly busy and the drinks are dependably consistent. It ticks a lot of boxes and from its spot on South King Street, it's part of a great little drinking circuit off Cross Street that also comprises subterranean watering holes like Corbieres and Salt Dogs.

It was inevitable that the humble Negroni was going to be mentioned at some point and Wood & Co does a mean one. In a city full of cocktail bars doing riffs on Vimto, the Vimtonic (vodka, port, cassis, lime, house Vimto syrup) is one of the best. 

39 S King St, Manchester M2 6DE

Follow Davey on Instagram and Twitter: @dbretteats

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