Which boozy and non-boozy libations do our food and drink team recommend you try this month?
Manchester seems to have fully bounced back from the pre-Xmas Omicron-mania and bars and restaurants are busy with people making up for lost time. Us included. You may have done Dry Jan, you may have thought: fuck that. Maybe you have knocked it on the head for good. Either way, it's good to have some pointers in the right direction.
In this second instalment of our liquid recommendations, we've got both boozy and alcohol-free options covered. Whether you are after a quirky or classic cocktail, an easy-drinking glass of wine or a booze-free option, our team can recommend some good stuff. You do you.
Here are our best things to drink in Manchester for February.
Lime and Cucumber, Steep Soda Co., Society (£3)
One thing I’ve noticed more than anything when I don’t want to get boozy is that the alternatives are so tooth-numbingly sweet that any alcohol-free benefits are cancelled out by the piles of sugar in every sip.
After two glasses of (close runner up) Naturalmente Bio Nero d’Avola at Society, this lime and cucumber soda was a real thirst quencher. Billed as something like a virgin mojito, it’s made with fresh lime juice, cucumber and mint which means it doesn’t need heaps of sugar to make it palatable.
Steep Soda Co. is a local operation based in Ardwick hand-making small-batch craft soda with seasonal ingredients. So the fact I’m supporting a lovely local brand is sweet enough for me, thank you. Sophie Rahnema @sophieshahla
Lucky Saint unfiltered lager, 0.5% ABV, The Epicurean Ancoats (£2)
In the interests of research and intrigue I took it upon myself to try a lot of alcohol-free beer this month. It wasn’t a dry January thing. Other standouts were a pint of Truly Likely So Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) after Track Taproom’s inaugural running club and an excellent Sweet Jane cocktail at the Jane Eyre. A bitter, Bourbon-based alternative to a Negroni.
The highlight of the month was a chilled bottle of Lucky Saint in The Refuge after watching Boiling Point at HOME (I bought another bottle at The Epicurean in Ancoats to double-check). I’m not usually one for lager, I tend to save it for hot summer days when I’m after refreshment in a beer garden, but Lucky Saint is as good as any full-fat lager I’ve had. It wasn’t watery like most faux beers and I honestly think in a blind tasting, most wouldn’t know the difference. Handy to know it’s an option all year round. Davey Brett @dbretteats
Daisy, The Daisy, (£9.50)
Like I said in our December drinks round-up, I'm a sucker for a bev with a gimmick. When I saw the bartender in Daisy serving up a globe full of smoke to a couple on an awkward first date, I had to have one without even knowing what the glass contained or the smoke was in aid of.
A smooth mixture of Ketel One vodka, bergamot, Aperol, grapefruit, and lemon, the Daisy has a thick sort of syrupy texture with a welcome citrusy tang coming from the grapefruits and lemons. The smoke also comes courtesy of a glass dome filled with burning rosemary that infuses the flavours of the sipper and replicates the smell of a slow-roasting leg of lamb, just what you want from a cocktail in an underground cavern. Ellie-Jo Johnstone @elliejoj
Seewinkel Gruner Veltliner, Elnecot, Ancoats (£7.25 for a 175ml glass)
Austrian wine has been having its moment in the sun lately. Not just on its picturesque terraced vineyards (thanks, climate change) but on the wine lists of cutting edge restaurants over here too. Gruner Veltliner is the leading lady. I’m a fan of this zingy white grape, not a million miles away from Riesling and a bit cheaper. I’ve knocked back fine examples at the fancy pants Moor Hall and Rogan and Co (a natty version, no less) amongst other places lately.
But closer to home and a little more accessible is lovely Elnecot in Ancoats, a place I pop to often on a Monday night in between finishing at the office and getting stuck into a bit of choral singing at the Halle St Peters over the road. A small glass of wine helps loosen the vocal cords, y’know?
On a recent visit, I enjoyed a glass of Seewinkel Gruner (named after the national park in Burgenland) alongside a couple of spicy veg dishes. Elnecot chef Michael Clay isn’t shy on the ole chilli and, as much as I am squarely in the hot sauce camp, a few Scovilles can play havoc with a wine. There’s a touch of residual sugar in this one (if my palate doesn’t deceive me) which is a good shout if you’re looking to match wine with spice. This is a simple, fresh, appley wine, nothing too complex (come on, it’s only Monday) but it's bob on with a bowl of "zhougie woogie" cauliflower. Kelly Bishop @Keliseating
Martini, Schofield's Bar (£11.50)
Schofield’s bar is on the ground floor of Sunlight House, where the infamous (in the sixties and seventies) Grapes pup resided. A place where barristers, lawyers, police of a certain rank and various members of The QSG used to do their drinking. It’s been cut in half and is now a cocktail bar, called Schofield’s, named after the two brothers who own and run it, Joe and Daniel. These two have some mad form in the international cocktail world, apparently.
I went as I had been quizzing Dan Morris, the gaffer of Freight Island for his advice on where to go for a good cocktail and on his recommendation, I walked in one grim Manchester evening and ordered a Martini. Their house martini was made with Chase GB gin, Schofield’s Dry Vermouth and orange bitters.
It was a dream, world-class and dead sexy. It was, in Manc terms, "avinit". In The Savoy Grill, it would be a lovely little livener. I speak many languages fluently. A great antidote to a gloomy early January evening. Gordo @GordoManchester
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