I've mentioned before that I'm not a massive fan of the cocktail in its most general terms. There are some that I like very much - the heady, smoky bourbon affairs that I had recently at The Smithfield Social; the sharp, nicely acidic Mojitos that I whipped up at home last night (more of this another time) - but on the whole, I've had too many bad ones to fully trust the cocktail, being all too familiar with the crushing experience of handing over £8.95 for a sickly sweet concoction that does nothing other than give me a headache and make me feel a bit sick.
All of this perhaps explains why I hadn't been to Cocktails in the City before, a drinks showcase that hits Manchester on an annual basis and brings a number of bars and brands together under one roof. What lured me in this time was the presence of some of my favourite bars coupled with some of my preferred spirits - if you're going to trust anyone to make you a decent cocktail, it might as well be the likes of Harvey Nichols, Hawksmoor and Smithfield Social. This year's venue was in The Great Northern, a cavernous upstairs space that normally hosts events such as Beat Street; we went on the Friday night, and it was utterly, totally packed (a little too packed for me at first - I did feel a little like a confused, 95-year-old interloper until I found my bearings i.e. first drink). Easy to see why though - it's only a tenner in (which also gets you your first cocktail and a booklet of all the recipes) and then additional drinks or food tokens are an extra £6, which seems reasonable for the kind of bars and brands that are here, and there are all sorts of demos and competitions going on as well. The event was a sell-out, with 1,600 people through the doors over both nights and - apparently - a total of 5,203 cocktails consumed (I like how pleasingly precise this figure is, and that it would have been under 5,200 had I not gone).
Our visit was something of a flying one as we were on our way somewhere else, but we sensibly found time for a "Runnin' Wild in Florence" with Wild Turkey at Smithfield Social, a "Botanical Garden" with Botanist Gin at the Second Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols (the addition of thyme was a masterstroke), the scarily blue but surprisingly palatable "Rum 'n' Ginger Sherbert" with El Dorado Rum from Mojo and - my personal favourite - the "Appleton Estate Mai Tai" at Hawksmoor. I genuinely enjoyed ALL of these, so there is perhaps hope for me yet. I did, however, rather ineptly manage to avoid trying any of the winners (apart from one second place), which were later announced as follows:
Best Cocktail (selected by The Drinks Enthusiast Dave Marsland and World Best Bars editor Sasha Filiminov) was Cane and Grain with Old Forester for the "Old and Wild Spiced Smash". The Fitzgerald came second with the Chambord "Smoked French Manhattan" and third was Cloud 23 with Tanqueray No.TEN for "Up, Up and Away". The best Best Stand (voted for by the exhibitors) was won by Mr Coopers with Portobello Road Gin, and the Consumer Vote (voted for over the two nights by handing over a token) saw Elixir & Tonics being the people's favourite with Harvey Nichols and Under New Management coming 2nd and 3rd respectively. It seems clear that next year, I will simply have to try them all.
- apologies for the appalling quality of the photos, which look like I was in some kind of disco - we can perhaps charitably call them "atmospheric". We were given free tickets for the event but paid for our additional drinks.