First things first: a confession. I am a Somerset girl who does not like cider; not the taste of it, the smell of it, the sight of it, or even the very thought of it. This dates back to my 18th birthday, when a well-meaning friend bought me a pint of cider and black (look, come on - it's what students used to drink in the 90s), little knowing that blackcurrant makes me hideously, violently, incurably sick. Particularly, it transpired, when combined with an alcoholic beverage, consumed on top of other alcoholic beverages. I have not touched it since, so when I heard that this summer's Manchester pop-up bar was a Summer Cider Garden, I felt nothing other than perhaps a fleeting feeling of mild annoyance that I would be unable to join in any of the proposed outdoor fun, and would have to sit indoors somewhere, pressing my face against the glass to watch everyone else living it up in the tropical Manchester sun.
Come along to the launch party! they said. We will convert you! they said. Hmmm, I thought, unlikely. And yet, remembering how The Liquorists once showed me that not all whisky is inherently evil, I thought I would just stick my nose in, particularly as last night was that most rare of beasts - a glorious Manchester Spring evening. A perfect evening, in fact, for drinking my new favourite thing - a light, sweet, refeshing, fruit-infused beverage that - heartbreakingly - turns out to be Rekorderlig passionfruit cider. Clearly a lucky fluke - except the raspberry and mango cider is also delicious. As is the Apple Mojito cocktail, made with apple cider - all the flavours of a normal mojito, but longer, and more thirst-quenching. So, in fact, cider is LOVELY, and although I shan't be having a can of scrumpy any time soon, I can imagine myself spending lots of time here this summer, particularly if the weather is nice.
Any short-comings? Well, the bar is rather limited, offering only bottled cider and Abro Swedish lager, and Mr Liz feels that £4.50 for a bottle of cider is steep. Others will snipe about the fact that the "garden" is actually an expanse of concrete in front of the Great Northern complex, where one may enjoy the peaceful chirps of sirens rushing down Deansgate and the gentle murmuring of hen parties who have taken a wrong turn. This is nonsense, of course - I prefer my gardens on the urban side, and no-one can deny that Heart Soul Rock & Roll know what they're doing with a pop-up. This one is simple, and understated, and simply does what it says on the tin - it's a cute little wooden chalet from which nice people buy cider which they then enjoy in the sun: simple. More cocktails will be arriving soon as well - a Strawberry & Lime Summer Cup, and a Bramble made with the Wild Berry cider; rumour has it that these will cost but six pounds, a worryingly low amount for a city centre cocktail.
So am I converted? Not fully, no - but I really think it would be only fair to spend the rest of the summer in the cider garden just to make sure.
- Manchester Summer Cider Garden is at the Great Northern Square, just off Deansgate. Opening times are currently variable - check their twitter feed @McrCiderGarden for more details.