Dare you venture down the tenebrous staircase into Superstition? The creative cocktails at this new bar might give you goosebumps
You'd be forgiven for walking past Superstition: with minimal signage on a fairly unassuming exterior, it's what folk love to call 'a hidden gem'. The chic cocktail bar - with a subtle electro-swing soundtrack and an emphasis on quality - opened its doors in June and has been building up custom the old-school way, by being bloody good.
If you don’t do that and you also spill a bit of your drink, you’re guaranteed seven years of really terrible sex
With only the two owners, Chris Mullen and Sean McGuirk, manning the tools and the only finance coming from their pooled life savings, it's a risk they're putting everything into. Owner, bartender and collector of weird stories (and - it is rumoured - human souuuuuuls) Chris talked to us about superstitions and gave us the intel on seven of the cocktails from his new menu, each with an interesting story attached.
How did the bar come about?
CM – "We met when we were both working in a horrendous nightclub on Deansgate and kept bumping into each other throughout our careers. We know how to do most of the jobs now because we’ve been doing it so long so we’re doing everything ourselves. It’s been commented that there’s a charm to it - that old pub landlord mentality. The guys making drinks and scrubbing the floors are also the guys who are trying to make a go of it. We’re not looking at CCTV cameras at head office, we’re here grafting every day."
Were you always into superstitions and geeky facts?
CM – "I think you’d be hard pushed to find someone who isn’t. Everyone knows at least one interesting superstition. It doesn’t exclude anybody. Everybody can contribute and everyone can enjoy it. The concept is there but it's subtle. We’re not going to have voodoo masks on the wall and be all weird and creepy all the time because that will get boring very quickly. We don’t want to turn into a vampire den. It has to be a good bar first and foremost. If you put too much effort and energy into a concept, you suffer on the things that are really important like service, drinks and food."
Are you superstitious?
CM – "I’m not but I do find them fascinating. It shows a way of thinking - attributing power to something that has no meaning."
Some do come from a logical place though.
CM – "They do, yeah. We assign connections to things. The human race would rather settle for a bad answer to a question than no answer at all. So it’s like, if I step on that crack in the road, every time I do it I trip over or something bad happens to me so therefore stepping on that crack is bad luck. You probably just keep catching your toe on it!"
I was thinking more ‘red sky at night…’
CM – "Yeah, I think a lot of it came from pre-technology. That was a good indication of the weather the next day."
Some come from things like religion, don't they? Warning people not to do certain things
CM – "As somebody who isn’t superstitious or religious I think it’s important to try and separate the two. Even if you think the logic is the same, there is still so much belief and value put into religion that you can’t say ‘that’s the same as a broken mirror’ because it really isn’t for a lot of people. Best to just leave that alone. I’m quite happy taking the mick out of Norse mythology because people accept it as a collection of stories, rather than 'I live my life by Odin' - you don’t really hear that any more so you can have a crack at that."
The only people you might upset with that are some very keen ‘gamers’
CM – "Well yeah perhaps, but I think even then they would accept the satire in it. We’re very cheeky here, we’re very much ourselves. The strength of your business has to be a sum of the people who work for it. If they’re all monotonous and dour then your product is monotonous and dour."
You don’t go to the pub for that, do you?
CM – "No, you come here to unwind and have a good time. We’ve had a couple of guests in every day after work just to tell us how their day’s going. We were trying to help one guy find a flat and a job because he’d just moved here from Sweden. He’s sorted now - off his own back - but we consider him a friend as well as a very welcome guest."
So tell us some weird stories that you entertain your guests with…
CM – "Are you familiar with the sour toe club? In Canada in the seventies, I believe, a guy found an amputated human toe in a jar of brine. Now for a bit of a giggle, he went around dropping it in people’s drinks in a bar and it became a tradition. It is still done to this day where you can take a shot with a real human toe in it and the toe has to touch your lips. They had to put a bit of documentation on it because some people were swallowing the toe by mistake. They’re donated - there’s a lot of frostbite in Canada (and Bolton, apparently - Ed).
Another one: In Czech if you say ‘Cheers!’, and clink your drink, you must maintain eye contact. If you don’t do that and you also spill a bit of your drink, you’re guaranteed seven years of really terrible sex.”
Read on for more stories, each connected to a drink from Superstition’s new menu.
Seven cocktails from the new menu
Deja Vu - "We wanted to make sure we had a superstitious term that everyone was familiar with, I wanted to have a little joke with this and added it to the menu twice. It has caught quite a few people out."
Prescribed by Heaven - "In China, an imperial edict was passed in 1116 BC that asserted that drinking alcohol in moderation was prescribed by Heaven. Religion at this time was a hugely powerful influence all over the world. As a result of this edict, the Treasury in China was far more healthy, and by the time Marco Polo arrived in the 13th century alcohol was the biggest source of income for the Chinese government."
A Selfless Pour - "During social gatherings in Japan, one never pours their own drink. Instead it falls to the individual to pour the drinks of an older person. The eldest are first to be served and then they in turn serve the youngest."
Death By Water - "In Europe, if you were to toast someone whilst drinking water, it actually meant you were wishing death upon them. Very passive aggressive!"
Libation - "Throughout history, many cultures have used sacrifices to appease their gods. Sometimes animals were sacrificed, sometimes it was people. However on most occasions a small amount of alcohol was poured into a fire or onto the floor as an additional offering."
"That's not a Strawberry Daiquiri" - "This drink has become a flagship beverage at Superstition. It tastes and smells like a Strawberry Daiquiri, but we have managed to make it clear. It still continues to bewilder guests. Sailors used to pay tribute to Neptune by throwing a splosh of rum overboard before voyages by sea - to ensure a safe journey."
Pachamamma - "Translates to 'Mother Earth' in Peruvian. It was commonplace for people to drink a plant-based liqueur in order to honour the Amazon rainforest."
Superstition, 14 Newton St, Manchester M1 2AF