Tag Archive for: cocktails

Chicago fleetingly came to mind at the launch of Sterling, a new cocktail bar from the Schofield brothers in the basement of Manchester’s Stock Exchange Hotel. All dark wood and sepulchral lighting with illuminated ranks of bottles the backdrop for some serious bartending. 

It’s the kind of joint you might slip into as dusk falls on The Loop, the Windy City’s old commercial quarter where Route 66 starts, the rumble of the CTA elevated railway a constant overhead. Easy to conjure up the ghosts of Al Capone and the speakeasy roisterers of the Twenties.

Chicago has it place in cocktail history for two different creations. One, The Old Fashioned, has conquered the world. Here’s my homage. The other has an altogether less salubrious back story. As in slipping  customers a Mickey Finn, in order to rob and pitch them into the street. This ‘special’ of raw alcohol, snuff-soaked water and a white liquid supplied by a voodoo doctor was invented over a century ago by Mickey Finn of the Lone Star Saloon in what is now the South Loop.

Unsurprisingly, there isn’t an example on the list at Sterling. Like the Bull & Bear restaurant upstairs the name is financial reference to the Norfolk Street building’s past as the city’s Stock Exchange. As soon as I am through its doors separate from the main hotel’s Joe Schofield presses on me his version of my favourite cocktail, the Negroni. It’s the best in town. He knows what I like. With his history of bartending in hotel, including the American Bar in some place called The Savoy Joe is steering The Sterling, while his brother Daniel looks after the shop at their eponymous bar off Deansgate, which picked up Bar of the Year in the Class Bar Awards 2022 and has just been named in the World’s Top 50 Cocktail Bar List. The brothers also run Atomeca at Deansgate Square.

Joe with his slicked back hair and white staff uniform looks the part. His globetrotting CV includes being named International Bar Tender of the Year in 2018 while working in Singapore and he remains creative director of bespoke botanicals specialists Asterley Bros in London. Both his mixology skills and Asterley’s Estate Vermouth were to the fore in my next drink – a Chicago Lightning (£13.75). The rest of the blend? Rabbit Hole Bourbon, Cacao Nib, Campari and Orange Curaçao,

I was convinced it was a stone cold classic and with that Chicago connection I sought its origins online and across my small but perfectly mixed cocktail book collection – Wondrich, Morgenthaler Jerry Thomas,. In vain. Not a mention.

The reason. “It’s my own creation inspired by interest in Chicago of the Roaring Twenties,” Joe tells me. “Lightning was the Chicago gangsters’ nickname for gunfire.”

Explosive stuff then? All guns blazing? Actually pure mellow magic from a great cocktail list that also includes further Schofield Brothers’ own creations, including Aguila (Herradura Blanco Tequila, pineapple, lime, avocado, coriander, red chilli, black pepper) and Butterscotch (butterscotch, butter, Singleton 12 scotch, lemon, egg white) an classics such as Artist’s Special (Highland Park 12 scotch, redcurrant, sherry lemon) and the Martinez (Roku Gin, Asterley Bros. Estate Vermouth, dry cherry, orange Bitters.

Equally impressive is the wine offering from Sterling and Atomeca co-founder James Brandwood (pictured above with Joe in the wine tasting vault). Originally from south Manchester, James began his 20-year hospitality career at university in Leeds, developing a passion for wine after moving to Australia in 2007. He managed venues across Sydney including the prestigious Rockpool Bar & Grill. General manager is Paola Mariotti, whose 5-star hotel CV includes the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy and The Blue Bar at The Berkeley in London. 

The bar snack menu is courtesy of Lush by Tom Kerridge, the two-Michelin starred chef responsible for Bull & Bear restaurant located on the former trading floor. Expect truffle cheese gougeres, whipped taramasalata, squid ink tapioca cracker, pickled red onion and crispy potato bites, creme fraiche and caviar.

Sterling, with a guest capacity of just over 100, is now open for bookings and walk-ins – Tuesday-Friday 5:30-12:30pm and Saturday 2pm-12:30pm. Bookings are available via this link. Stock Exchange Hotel, 4 Norfolk Street, Manchester, M2 1DW.

Question. What the devil is the owner of ‘the UK’s toughest pub’ doing at Manchester Food and Drink Festival debating the food matching merits of craft beer over cocktails?

Of course, every city boasts a roughhouse contender but the Kray twins’ locals around London did have the Wild West edge back in the Sixties. Notably the Blind Beggar in Whitechapel, a local of mine too for a while, as it happens. a quarter of a century after Ronnie Kray notoriously shot gangster rival George Cornell there in 1966.

Brewer and media star Jaega Wise now runs another past Kray haunt, the Victorian Tavern on the Hill in Walthamstow, which once had a “a reputation for being a bloodbath,” according to Sky TV’s Britain’s Hardest. It’s not like that these days with a Jamaican food menu and beers from Jaega’s award-winning brewery, Wild Card, samples of which should feature in the Octopus Books showcase at the MFDF Hub on Saturday, September 24.

Jaega, named Britain’s best brewer in 2018 by the Guild of Beer Writers and winning an equivalent award this year, is promoting her recently published Wild Brews (Kyle hb, £22). At 6pm she comes up against Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, co-authors of 60 Second Cocktails, to determine if beer or cocktails should be crowned the winning beverage.

It’s not a straight stand-off, hops and malt versus spirits and botanicals, since her primer for home brewers is subtitled “from sour and fruit beers to farmhouse ales”. A sophisticated far cry from the Boots kits of yore, then.

34-year-old Jaega’s talents are spread interestingly these days. I listen to her regularly when she presents on BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme. Her most recent assignment explored the racial connotations of fried chicken. Her telly career includes Channel 5’s The Wine Show and Beer Masters, available on Amazon Prime, where Jaega and James Blunt judged “Europe’s best home brewers going head-to-head across five challenges brewing popular beer styles and taking on creative and technical challenges.” Think Bake-off with ‘stuck mash’ instead of ‘soggy bottoms’.

Filming the latter show appropriately coincided with the gestation of Wild Brews. “The book took me three and a half years… writing’s not really my thing,” Jaega laments. Modesty from a Nottingham girl, who once considered studying English at university before a volte face into chemical engineering. “You see my scientific training in the technical side of the book, but I was determined to make it accessible. It’s both an introduction for the beginner and of use to a more advanced brewer, who wants to be more adventurous with styles.”

Certainly when Wild Card was launched a decade ago sours and saisons, lambic and goses didn’t trip off the average beer tippler’s tongue. London, where Jaega had moved, had only 10 breweries. Multiply that many times now.

She had dabbled in home brewing at university. But it was not until, disillusioned with the day job, she started working in a pub, she was swept up in the hop-driven zeitgeist, joining friends William Harris and Andrew Kirkby, who had first dreamed up Wild Card over a kitchen table. After nomadic years ‘cuckoo brewing’ on others’ kit Wild Card eventually  found their first Walthamstow site, before moving to the nearby Lockwood brewery in 2017.

Result: today’s mini-empire at the northern end of the Victoria Lime with a taproom at Lockwood and another in their Barrel Store, plus the Tavern, overlooking gentrifying Walthamstow, with a Jamaican food residency from The Jam Shack.

Jaega says: “We are very proud to have taken over the pub, the only one in the Higham Hill area. Pubs are incredibly important. They and the role of the publican are not given enough credit. There are issues of loneliness that they can help combat. Weddings, funerals, all kinds of community activity –  pubs can be central.”

And, of course, there’s the beer. Like pubs, it’s under threat too in economically perilous times. Wild Card, by necessity, concentrated on more traditional styles to start off but is now in the forefront of US-inspired ‘craft beer’ with – you guessed it – benchmark NEIPA. Matthew Curtis in his definitive Modern British Beer (my review) described it as “redolently juicy with a fruit cocktail of flavours including peach, apricot, melon and pineapple that’s typically characteristic of the New England IPA.”

Peruse the Wild Card website, though, and you’ll discover a much more diverse array of beer styles that live up to the ‘Wild Brews’ tag. Alongside the current Twilight NEIPA there’s an Amaretto Sour, a Damson Sour, a Cuvee Saison sharing bottle and a Tropical Stout. 

I wonder which of these head brewer Jaega will bring up  to Manchester to pair with probable barbecue accompaniment? “You’ll have to wait and see,” she says.

What she can reveal: “This is the food and drink world I’m lucky enough to operate in. We are so lucky in this county to produce drinks of such  high standard. Our whisky is so delicious, and then I can get the used barrels and the chance to ply with flavours. It’s my life.”

That professional life has obviously encountered pitfalls. As a young woman of Caribbean heritage from the most deprived area of Nottingham entering a male-dominated profession. “Change is slow,” she says. “Statistics clearly show considerably fewer women in senior positions across the whole UK economy, not just in brewing.”

Jaega is obviously not one to shirk a challenge. So watch out Team Cocktail this Saturday.

“Wine has for too long been seen as the obvious match for food and I can see cocktails pairing well with some dishes, but beer is hard to beat. It handles spice better and is a perfect accompaniment to cheese.”

If you don’t catch Jaega at MFDF’s Octopus Cookbook Confidential on Saturday, September 22 don’t fret. She’ll be back in Manchester the following weekend as Wild Card makes its pouring debut at IndyManBeerCon.

We went for dinner to Hawksmoor Manchester the other night. It’s been a while. We avoided Monday because that’s BYOB day with just £5 corkage to pay, so I guessed it might be rammed. ‘Slowish’ Tuesday it was then and, to our amazement, there wasn’t a table to be had by mid-evening… or a dry glass in the house. We were in the roaring dining room by 6.30pm and the last sharing porterhouse had already been snaffled 20 minutes before. Damn you, carnivores of impeccable taste.

If you associate Hawksmoor only with steaks think again and settle down in the Manchester bar

No regrets, though, that we’d been detained in the penumbral clutches of the bar to sample the five fresh cocktails that constitute the upmarket steakhouse’s Summer Collection. You wouldn’t consider Miller & Carter or even Gaucho (and definitely not your local Toby Carvery) on the strength of the mixology team. At Hawksmoor it’s different. Quick flashback to a vanished age before vegans roamed the high street. Seven years ago I joined a charm offensive press pack ferried to London to gauge what all the fuss was about on the eve of this critically acclaimed outfit’s arrival in Manchester. Their latest conquest has been New York but no plane tickets in the mail, as yet, alas.

The food quality blew us away, especially the meat, with wines that made a splendid match. We visited four of their venues in the day. Somewhere along the line, probably in the Spitalfields original (above), we encountered the cocktail list that was an integral part of the Hawksmoor experience. The original list was created back in 2006 by the legendary Nick Strangeway and Liam Davy, who is still going strong as Head of Bars (his son Jack is now manager  of the Deansgate Manchester venue). Check out the Hawksmoor classics and you’ll find the hardy perennial, Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew, the ultimate gin-fuelled ‘power shandy’ and the Fuller-Fat Old Fashioned, which I explored in a recent blog.

For the Father’s Day just past Liam devised Midsummer Old Fashioned, mixing Johnnie Walker Blue Label, salted Oxfordshire honey and cold brew camomile tea, topped with a cube of white chocolate fudge. 

That’s now off the menu because it’s not really seasonal. So how did the Summery Five –  launched at the same time and available until mid-September – fare?

Green Snapper is a verdant riff on Bloody Mary. Five a day in a glass almost to send chlorophyll coursing through my veins. Forgive any nutritional, botanical inaccuracies;  this is a zinger. Beefeater Gin’s the base, muddled with green tomato, jalapeno, lime, cucumber and lovage.

Factor 50 Fizz pales in comparison, but then I’m not a spritz fan. It hardly feels alcoholic this mix of Lillet Rose, strawberry, cucumber and sparkling coconut water.

Rimini Iced Tea – Fellini’s home town (Amarcord in the movie of the name) is the tenuous inspiration for this cooler because of the reputation of its peaches. That fruit, basil and sparkling Darjeellng tea make a refreshing  match with ultra-sustainable Avallen Calvados.

R.A.C. Aviation is a classic rhubarb & custard combo. Made with Bombay Sapphire 1er Cru, rhubarb cordial, vanilla, lemon and maraschino. Surprisingly tart, it’s properly summery.

Moselle Martini is my favourite of the five, mellow and approachable with an indefinable complexity. It’s made with Fords gin, cucumber, Riesling vermouth and pear eau de vie.

No Porterhouse – how did we pull through?

Our daughter’s dog Toro gnawed our doggie bag T-bone with great gusto. We adored the steak that was once attached in the company of a soft, summery Pinot Noir from the Loire. Creamed spinach, anchovy hollandaise, triple-cooked chips, heritage tomato salad. To start we shared beef carpaccio and scallops cooked in the shell with White Port. Never lets you down.

Hawksmoor Manchester, 184-186 Deansgate, M3 3WB. 0161 836 6980.

Platinum pandemonium on the streets of Manchester. We have half an hour to spare between engagements and definitely need a refuge from Saturday afternoon’s ‘jubilant’ crowds thronging Spinningfields. SCHOFIELDS Bar, of course… and a sublime Old Fashioned hits the spot.

Inside, the art deco space is quiet, both bar stools and deep blue leather banquettes sparsely occupied. Which is unusual. Since its arrival barely a year ago Joe and Daniel Schofield’s ‘instant classic’ has become an irresistible magnet for cocktail lovers and industry awards. Recently it won New Bar of the Year and overall UK Bar of the Year at the Class Bar Awards. In the separate Top 50 Cocktail Bars List it ran in at number 16 behind nearby Speak in Code, ranked 10th in the UK. 

On Deansgate, equidistant to both, is the atmospheric Hawksmoor restaurant bar, no strange to accolades, while on the fringe of the Northern Quarter Mecanica (above) is also a real contender (Ellie Wright was named Emerging Bartender of the Year in the Class awards).

Completing what I consider Manchester centre’s Fab Five is classy newcomer Blinker up on Spring Gardens. Like the Schofields (Bury) its creator Dan Berger (Heaton Mersey) is a local lad come home. Like Joe Schofield and Phil Aldridge, Dan honed his cocktail craft in Australia. He was also bar head honcho for Gordon Ramsay Holdings.

All of which brings us by a roundabout route back to arguably the oldest cocktail in the book, the Old Fashioned, its recent global appeal boosted by Dan Draper’s obsessive consumption in Sixties homage Mad Men. He would have been in his element at Blinker, which offers a complete page of Old Fashioned variants (The Martini gets a similar menu tribute)…

I’ve tried four out of the five OFs and am particularly smitten with the Sandalwood Old Fashioned (£12) which mixes Chivas Mizunara with a sandalwood and cherry Old Fashioned reduction. Purists, of course, might shy away from using the Chivas, the first Scotch whisky to be selectively finished in Japanese mizunara oak casks, but in general – like SCHOFIELDS – one Blinker emphasis is is on the stone cold classics with perfection the aim. Manhattan, Negroni, Sazerac, Vodka Martini territory.

This sits alongside Dan’ commitment to seasonality in his ingredients: “For the first menu, we’re going to focus on British mint, stone fruits and nectarines. We’re also looking at rhubarb that is grown in Cheshire, as well as pomegranate as a back-up fruit while we wait for more strawberries to come into season.”

Mecanica and SIC pursue more innovative cocktail trails with strong bartender contributions, yet just request and they’ll mix you up a pretty mean Old Fashioned. During pre-Christmas lockdown the latter sold a trio of pre-bottled versions for the Mad Man in your life.

Who’s to say what is a definitive Old Fashioned? Take Hawksmoor, whose culinary obsession with animal fats strays over into their continuing enhancement of the basic formula of muddling sugar with bitters and water, adding bourbon or rye whiskey and garnishing with orange slice or zest and maybe a cocktail cherry. Before serving de rigueur in an old-fashioned glass.

Liam Davy and his Hawksmoor bar team added a first tweak with their Full-Fat Old Fashioned, which begat more recently the Fuller-Fat Old Fashioned – “which still requires a painstaking process of infusing butter into bourbon in a water bath, but now has the added luxury of beurre noisette and a hint of the cigar box courtesy of sandalwood and cedar oil.”

For Father’s Day Liam has devised Midsummer Old Fashioned, mixing Johnnie Walker Blue Label, salted Oxfordshire honey and cold brew camomile tea, topped with a cube of white chocolate fudge. Available for a limited period from Monday, June 13 to to Sunday 19.

Hawksmoor’s not really one for the vegans then. They might turn to plant-based Speak In Code, who have their own way of adding savoury oomph to a bourbon-based cocktail. ‘Track 5’ is an old favourite: Shiitake & plant butter washed bourbon; toasted sunflower sweet vermouth; corn purée, foamer; mushroom jerky

“Bourbon is infused with dried shiitake mushrooms for 24 hours, strained and then melted plant butter is added before blast chilling. You’re left with a savoury, slightly sweet and salt bourbon with a creamy mouthfeel. Toasted sunflower seeds are added to a sweet vermouth, for their oil and fat properties. 

“The strained sunflower seeds are rehydrated as part of the garnish. The house corn purée is citrus boosted to add bite, and tastes like pineapples and passionfruit. The bourbon soaked shiitake mushrooms are blended down with dark soy, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt and smoked paprika, then spread out on baking paper and dried out to make a bourbon mushroom jerky to garnish with the sunflower seeds. It’s a mad tropical meets umami experience.”

Old Fashioned – the Morgenthaler way

I was fortunate enough during a trip to Portland, Oregon to run into the legendry Jeffrey Morgenthaler, author of my cocktail bible, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique. He was and still is managing the bars Clyde Common and Pépé Le Moko in the Ace Hotel, where I was staying. I went seeking his barrel-aged Negronis but the most requested drink there happens to be the Old Fashioned – what back in the 19th century was th kind of drink you were given if you asked for a cocktail. 

Morgenthaler tells new bartenders that this is one drink that is very easy to make well, but very easy to screw up. Here’s his advice, extracted from Food Republic magazine, on how to make one at home…

“You really only need a small handful of ingredients: a spirit, some sugar, some bitters, ice and a little citrus peel. Notice that you’re not required to have, or even like, whiskey to have yourself an Old Fashioned. If we look at a recipe from 1806 the drink is “composed of spirits of any kind,” which is great news for drinkers, as we can tailor our Old Fashioned to our particular taste without bastardizing the original intent of the drink.

“A note about sugar: you’ll want to make a simple syrup and have it on hand. I always keep a few simple syrups in my fridge at home for use in cocktails. I make mine at a ratio of two parts sugar to one part water, both measured by weight, and heated over low heat on the stovetop and stirred constantly until the sugar is dissolved. But which sugar to use? “Well, that’s the beautiful thing about the Old Fashioned — you can match your sugar syrup to match your spirit. How about a tequila Old Fashioned made with agave syrup? Or a rum Old Fashioned made with Demerara sugar syrup?

Experiment with the recipe below and tailor it to your own personal preference, and soon you’ll be able to regale your guests with the best Old Fashioned they’ll have ever tried. I guarantee it.

Old Fashioned

2 ounces spirit (I most often reach for bourbon, but nearly anything will do), 1 teaspoon of 2:1 simple syrup. 2 dashes bitters (I prefer Angostura bitters, but again, experiment with your favourites)

1. Stir ingredients with ice cubes for 20-30 seconds or until well chilled.

2. Strain over fresh ice in an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a large swath of citrus peel. I typically use orange peel, but other citrus can make for interesting flavour.

Schofield’s Bar, Sunlight House, 3 Little Quay St, Manchester M3 3JZ. 07311 777606. They also have a side project, Atomeca, at the city’s Deansgate Square and will open Sterling in the Stock Exchange Hotel this summer. Speak in Code, 7 Jackson’s Row Manchester M2 5ND. 07767 658690. Hawksmoor, 184-186 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WB. 0161 836 6980. Mecanica, 1-3 Swan Street, Manchester M4 5JJ. 0161 806 1492. Blinker 64-72 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BQ. 0161 236 8225.

I’ve been contemplating ice this week. No, not the hazardous stuff that comes with the wind chill factor and a chance of compound fracture. More the gleaming pure lozenge enveloped by a Negroni.

I’m greeted by one on my arrival at Mecanica, our server Ellie embellishing with “We’ve heard you’re partial to one”. Two or three actually, but I’m at the bar to sample a range of the creative house cocktails, not a stone cold classic. Though like any cocktail bar worth its salt they’ll rustle up whatever you request.

Wine was the selling point of the previous occupant of this site on the busy corner of Oldham Street and Swan Street, but The Quick Brown Fox was never busy and shut all too quickly. I can see Mecanica having a less transitory shelf life – as one of Manchester’s key cocktail destinations. Which bring us to the nice ice touch.

It was such a sparkling snug fit I assumed my Negroni (Martin MIller gin, Campari, Cocchi) was sharing the tumbler with one of those bought-in designer ice cubes. Arch rivals Schofield’s Bar source theirs from Chas Ayres’ cutting edge Black Ice CPD Ltd.

No, like Speak In Code bar, another of the city’s cocktail elite, Mecanica make their own. General manager Phil Aldridge (pictured above) explained: “We use a process known as ‘directional freezing’ where we take a container thats insulated on all sides apart from one, this means the ice freezes from the top down forcing the impurities to the bottom (as the more impurities in the water the lower the freezing point).

“We then remove this from the freezer, dispose of the unclear ice and then break down the clear ice into smaller more manageable pieces by hand. These are then hand chipped down into the perfect size for our rocks glass. Its time consuming and takes a lot of keeping on top of, but it’s cheaper than buying it in and infinitely more rewarding.”

The same attention to detail goes into the in-house preparation of most of the cocktail ingredients (of which more later). It takes a dedicated, trained staff to make this work and all six bartenders get a picture testimonial in the Team section of the website. This add-on always reminds me of those movies where the closing credits incorporate snapshot epilogues of what  will happen to all the characters in the future.

But instead of ‘died in Vietnam’ or ‘became an itinerant preacher man’ it namechecks each’s favourite cocktail. Zombie is Ellie’s, which is appropriately cineaste, since two concoctions she has created for the Mecanica list are film-themed. We also tried tipples from Dom, Jack and Adam (Phil and Rory, promise we’ll sample your contributions next time).

See You in Half an Hour (£9.50) is a fruity mix of Suze Aperitif, St Germain, Chazalettes bianco vermouth, with a red wine float and and almond mist for their aromatic qualities. “Reproducing the visual aesthetic of Wes Anderson’s 2007 short Hotel Chevalier, the drink makes multiple references to the characters’ fleeting romance in the titular backdrop.” Phew.

Well, it has put Hotel Chevalier on my streaming bucket list and I’m glad to confirm Ellie and I are devotees of Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest and Ralph Fiennes’ comic tour de force but agree to differ on Isle of Dogs. Not the kind of conversation sparked by 2-4-1 happy hour service in Slug and Lettuce.

The 1981 comedy, Arthur, is Ellie’s inspiration for Between the Moon and New York City (£9.50), definitely my punchy kind of cocktail, incorporating Bulleit rye whiskey,  Bitter Rose Moonshine, all rosehip and elderberry, Cocchi Rosa vermouth and peach bitters. It’s a line from the theme tune to the movie which follows Dudley Moore as a drunken millionaire who spends his days drinking in the hotel room he calls home.

There’s a further comic backdrop to Jack’s A Touch of Class (£11.50), named after the 1975 pilot episode of Fawlty Towers, and so paying homage to Basil Fawlty and the hapless Manuel. Indeed basil herb dominates in a delightful way, adding  surprisingly savoury bacon note to this blend of Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Cocchi Americano vermouth, clementine and champagne.

I loved it. Just the kind of cocktail you’d never get at a hotel of the calibre of Fawlty Towers. ‘Touch of Class’ alludes to Basil’s snobbish aspirations for it. To quote the script… Basil: If we can attract this class of customer then the sky’s the limit. Sybil: Basil, 22 rooms is the limit. Basil: Have you seen the people in room six. They’ve never sat on chairs before.”

The cannier of you may have twigged by now that a connecting theme in all these cocktails is HOTELS. Mecanica declares itself a ‘No-tel’ bar, promising the hotel bar experience without the hotel and yet inspired by the world’s best hotel bars… in sumptuous surroundings. Certainly the sophisticated interior belies the plain frontage but more importantly for me the slightly random hotel pegging doesn’t feel a distracting  imposition.

The theme is up there with Speak In Code current record sleeve inspired drinks menu and the ambitious ‘Japanese Idioms’ list developed by Gethin Jones at Cottonopolis a few years back. I like lists that tell stories.

Fear and Loathing (£10.50) courtesy of Adam, is a rollercoaster a cocktail ride as you’d expect from its inspiration, Hunter S. Thompson’s novel later adapted into the 1998 film featuring Johnny Depp and various oddballs holed up in a hotel sipping Singapore Slings and Mezcal. This bittersweet homage is appropriately in your face, blending Koch Mezcal, D.O.M Benedictine, passion fruit liqueur, a Sipello and grapefruit shot and, a new one for me, citrus squid ink.

You get a subtler but equally powerful buzz from El Convento (£10). It’s based on an actual hotel in a convent building dating back to 1646, neighbour of the oldest cathedral in Puerto Rico. Has creator Dom been there? Or is the Latin holy trinity of olive oil washed Barsol Pisco, Cocchi Americano and pickled chilli just a tot of inspired cultural appropriation?

Finally, a five star hotel I’ve actually stayed in a couple of times – Ashford Castle at Cong in County Galway. It was home to the Guinness family in the 19th century, so the eponymous dark stout features in Dom’s super smooth Ashford Estate (£10) along with nutmeg, orange and Roe & Co Irish Whiskey, whose creamy texture is enhanced by milk washing.

Not a term you’re acquainted with? Olive oil washed too? Let’ close with dip into the behind the scenes teamwork that makes Mecanica quite special.

Over to Phil again, the ringmaster of this project with a CV that impresses (from  Sokyo, a high-end Japanese bar in Sydney to MIchelin-starred Mana in Ancoats):

“For our home made ingredients we use a number of different methods and techniques, the majority of our ‘fresh’ ingredients are made in a water bath that’s heated using an immersion circulator set to around 54 degrees. This is the perfect temperature to both speed up the process of infusing flavour without exposing the ingredients to direct, intense heat. 

“We’re aiming to stay away from the idea of cooking or caramelising, the maillard reaction or anything that will alter the chemical structure of the amino acids and sugar compounds found in our ingredients (unless on purpose of course), changing the fresh flavour we’re trying so hard to preserve. 

“There are processes such as ‘fat washing’, cold infusion and elements of fermentation, shrub and brining included on our menu. We also have access to things like centrifugal juicers and chamber vacuum machines, allowing us to extract flavour from nearly any ingredient we choose to work with, which when you work with the seasons, can be very valuable. 

“We then store everything under vacuum to prevent oxidisation, preserve flavour and cut down on the need for excessive storage space.”

It is not just our restaurants – the likes of Mana, Where The Light Gets In and the Moorcock at Norland – with their foraging, fermenting and passion for ingredients that are the contemporary cutting edge cauldrons. The cocktail scene at Mecanica’s level is equally vibrant.

Mecanica, 1-3 Swan Street, Manchester M4 5JJ. 0161 806 1492. Wednesday and Thursday 3pm-12am; Friday and Saturday 12pm-1am; Sunday 12pm-12am. Bar snacks include handmade flatbreads and cheese and charcuterie from the Butcher’ Quarter. The wine list is better than at mot cocktail bar, too. 

Check out Mecanica’s festive packages HERE. Also every advance booking of four or more this New Year’s Eve will receive a complimentary bottle of Prosecco when purchasing a round of cocktails