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Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Liquorists' Tequila Trail, Northern Quarter, Manchester: Local Girl Remarkably Unscathed

Now, I'm a pretty trusting sort of person. I like to see the good in everyone, and believe that most people tend to act from the best of motives, without recourse to lying, or exploitation, or rudeness, or unkindness (although even I have started hanging up on that company that rings me EVERY DAY to try to sell me loft insulation). Having said that, though, it's taken me a while to really fully trust The Liquorists when they so proudly swing around that promise of theirs about "no hangover guaranteed"; I have had hangovers in the past from one glass of wine, so the concept of five different shots of the same spirit, accompanied by five different cocktails, followed by no regret, is one that I have found hard to buy into. Still, last night I successfully completed my fourth Liquorists trail, and today is my fourth hangover-free-following-a-trail day - a remarkable clean sweep that fully vindicates the trust placed in the ever-genial Tom and Jody and their merrily alcoholic jaunts across town. This week and next week's trails are devoted to that most divisive of spirits: tequila - a particular favourite of mine, but one that I know prompts sad, juddering memories in others. Still, the point of these trails is to introduce you properly to a spirit you may be suspicious of, and I challenge ANYONE not to have a love of tequila after this little lot...

We start at the Liquorists HQ, the less-secret-by-the-day 22 Redbank in the Green Quarter. Here we are served our starter shot of Jose Cuervo Traditional - you can tell I enjoyed it by the fact you see only its empty receptacle pictured here alongside our first cocktail, a classic margarita. I love a margarita, which is always one of my go-to options in any cocktail bar, and this one was right on the money - expertly mixed by Jody, with a zingy tartness and controversial layer of salt round the rim of the glass (Tom hates the salt, and says people only have salt with tequila to take away the taste of BAD TEQUILA). We also eat here - tasty fish tacos, nachos with salsa, guacamole and sour cream, and some corn cobs that I eat in a graceless, strands-stuck-in-teeth sort of manner.

Then we leap into a fleet of waiting taxis (transport is thoughtfully provided when there is a bit of a walk between venues) and make our way to stop number two - Apotheca, one of my favourite bars in the Northern Quarter. Here we have a classy tequila indeed, the Don Julio Reposado, which has "rested" for a year or so in bourbon barrels (this is indeed Mr Liz's kind of resting). It is smooth and flavoursome, although a little drowned out in the accompanying cocktail - our mango and rosemary margaritas are delicious, but taste a little like Soleros and certainly don't taste as if they are alcoholic in any way.

Next up is the ever-entertaining Socio, where we switch our attention to white tequilas in the form of El Jimador Blanco. I am already starting to feel the hit of alcohol here, as you can see by my attempts at what I considered at the time to be arty, moody photography rather than some alcohol-ridden girl randomly, hopefully, snapping at things with her iphone camera. The cocktail is a simple one, a Paloma, which is essentially tequila topped up with Ting, a grapefruity Caribbean soft drink that is like Lilt, only better. I will not reproduce here the analogy used by Tom to describe how good Ting is; not even its essence, for it is FILTH.

Fourth stop is Hula Tiki Bar, a regular stop on the Liquorists Rum Trail, and now pressed into service to provide us with Herradura Tequila Blanco and Tommy Margaritas, served icy cold in winsome tin mugs. This cocktail is most people's favourite of the night - it really is a margarita in its most pared-back form, made with just good-quality tequila, lime juice and a touch of sweetness. Those tin mugs do get pretty cold though - I'm currently typing one-handed as mine from last night is still frozen to my fingers.

Last stop is the newish Kosmonaut Bar, which prides itself on its extensive beer and wine list but also serves up a very moreish cocktail in the form of the Tapatian, a long, sweetish drink offering the unusual combination of tequila with a little cassis, and aptly named due to the presence of our final tequila, the deliciously smooth Tapatio Anejo. We like it in here and Mr Liz has already put in his request to return, perhaps for a beer trail, albeit with just the one stop.

Just a quick word about food; as well as your stomach-lining repast at 22 Redbank, you will also get food pairings at each of the bars you visit - due to teething problems these were not available last night. I promise this is true and it is not that I ate the lot before they could be photographed. In the absence of nibbles, Mr Liz and I rounded off our evening in superlative style with a piece of perfect pizza from Slice Pizza on Stevenson Square - I like to think that the fact that mine was an authentically Italian aubergine slice meant I retained my classy look even as I ate it whilst running for the train.

So, if you've not been on a Liquorists trail before, then you have the rest of this week and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week to get yourself onto the Tequila Train - prices start from £30 for a Wednesday night, and although they do get dearer as the week goes on, this is the first time I have placed myself in Tom and Jody's hands on a week night and everything seems to be fine (I assume Mr Liz is safely at work also, rather than lying in a skip somewhere). Maybe it's the fact that you stick to the same spirit rather than mixing your drinks, or maybe it's just the quality of what is served - all five of the tequilas we had last night were 100% agave, which makes then good and pure in the same way that, ahem, organic wine is also good for you. Whatever the reasoning behind it, these men tell the truth: NO HANGOVER, GUARANTEED.

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