The Liquorists are a plucky pair of alcohol aficionados that are using their considerable skills, knowledge and contacts mixed with verve, passion and cheeky chat to create The Trails - an upmarket bar crawl that aims to teach you about what you're drinking as well as get you well lubricated around the bars of Manchester's Northern Quarter.
As you all know, I like a drink; I'm not very good at drinking, but I do like one. With an invite from Tom (one half of The Liquorists) sitting in my inbox to try their new incarnation of the trail, Rumberdrone 3 (clue, this one is about Rum, it's in the name, see) and having no clue about rum mixed with a need to educate/distract/make a fool of myself I accepted in a heartbeat.
Tom - our cocktail captain for ther night - "a gipping yarn I can tell ye"
This is the third rum trail The Liquorists have run and in order to debunk the myth that the third of anything is always bad eg albums/films/tv shows (they obviously weren't thinking about threesomes) they've gone all out on this trail and upped the number of bars/shorts/cocktails to six (from five) with a 'very special something at the end.'
We were met at Hula by the effervescent Tom and quickly got the first rum down us - a Plantation, which is special because each barrel is individually sampled and only those showing the true characteristics of the rum are bottled. Fact. Oh and it's bottled in oak casks, then transported to France and finished in cognac casks. Double fact. Hula had also created an Atlantic Boatclub Daiquiri with a Plantation 3 Star, which we matched with bananas and toasted pineapples. Think I offended Tom by leaving most of the cocktail, but I was seriously suffering from the Almost Famous Pig Out the night before and my hands were still shaking at this point.
Plantation rum, Atlantic Boathouse Daiquiri at Hula Bar
After a good chat and an introduction to the other ten rum-trailers (nothing like a good bit of booze to loosen the tongue) we headed off to THE home of rum in Manchester, Keko Moku - a tiki bar that makes insane cocktail creations and probably has more booze soaked in to its fabric than I do after a clumsy bar room fumble/night out. Here we tried my favourite two drinks of the night - an El Dorado 12 year - forget what you think about rum (yeah we all downed Bacardi aged 16 thinking we were both big and clever and no, this is nothing like that...) - this is the purest honey, caramel, toffee, butterscotch all the way from Guyana. Smooth and slipped right in; absolutely beautiful. This was followed by a Sanguine Sizzle, an award-winning cocktail created by Socio Rehab's (Keko's sister bar) head barman containing blood orange, grapefruit, peychauds bitters, maraschino liquor and earl grey tea. Looked girly, tasted fruity with sweet, floral undertones. I finished this on off and mysteriously my previous nights DTs were gone.
Smooth as silky legs - El Dorado 12 year Keko Moku
A quick trot across the road and we landed in Odd - a Manchester stalwart with seven years' service under its belt - however not a cocktail bar. Hmm, where was this going? First up the Matusalem to taste and during sipping we were recounted of turbulent tales, money lost and general intrigue from Tom. And then Odd showed us how a non-cocktail place does a cocktail; they give you a steel bottom. That's not a euphemism, but two glasses - one with rum in and one with beer, idea is you take a sip of each. I liked it, many didn't, horses for courses as they say. Here we ate mojito skewers - a cheeky rum based cocktail nod from the non-cocktail bar there.
A view of my steel bottom at Odd Bar
On again to Tusk, a new bar that's decked out like some exotic 70s boudoir and staffed by some of the friendliest people I've ever met; here we encountered the hard stuff - a 63% Wray and Nephew, that we were advised to 'soften' with water - I did, it could still knock me out at 100 paces. Luckily there was some kick ass homemade chocolates that contained the rum as a match - much softer, much more me, many were in my mouth, some of it dribbled down my chin - and a Hipster Daiquiri with so much lime in, that I continue to believe it was placed at this part of the trail to stop us slipping in to some comfortable alcoholic coma sleep.
After being thoroughly abused in Tusk we headed over to another Northern Quarter newbie - The Blue Pig. Very Parisian, very chic, very not like I would ever think to drink rum here. We settled back to a Brugal, very dry compared to some of the earlier rums we'd been drinking and a very luscious apple daiquiri.
Chic and sophisticed - Brugal and Apple Daiquiri at The Blue Pig
And then it was on to something special - a ten minute trek through some 'ahem' less than salubrious areas (yes, even less salubrious than the areas I usually inhabit) and into a railway arch. What was this? This turned out to be 22Redbank, or The Office, as The Liquorists call it (seriously, can I have a job here. Its has a bar and a ping pong table and golf clubs and a glass cabinet and everything). I'd probably call it something way cooler like 'secret underground booze bunker' but that's just me. Settled in leather couches we tried Pussers Navy Rum (yeah, I had a good time with that name), at 54.5% it's the original strength they'd drink in the navy and was as dark and thick as treacle. The guys also produced the Painkiller, a mix of Pussers and pineapple which did a great job at soothing out tongues from the spicy Thai curry we'd just been served up.
The Rum trail, or any trail that The Liquorists run, is a well thought out alternative to crowding in to sweaty bars, tipping overpriced drinks down your neck, jostling at the bar and generally trying to have a good time but it soon becoming a sweaty, rubbish cattle market. Each tour is well planned, all the bars know what time you're coming and have food/tables/booze ready for you and for the price you pay, you get more booze than I can drink in a week (well I am a cheap date), plus nibbles and a proper meal at the end. The Liquorists know their drinks, they can spin a yarn or two and it's been one of the most interesting nights I've been on for a while.
Ps All I can say is 'Sorry Tom, next time I won't have a hangover/go to Famous the night before. Promise.'
Rum Trail 3 is on for the next five weeks - book yours HERE. If not, keep an eye on their site for the upcoming Belvedere Vodka Tour and, rumour has it, some Tequila madness near to Christmas.