The word iconic is overused, but when it comes to Manchester nightlife, few venues deserve it more than Atlas Bar.
Perfectly placed between Deansgate tram and train stations, Atlas first opened back in 1996, serving as the pre-drinks base for the nearby Hacienda nightclub, back when it was more known for late-night dancing than luxury apartments.
It soon became Tony Wilson’s local, and it was here, back in 2001, where he rightly predicted Manchester was about to become the world-beating city we know and love today.
Current owners, Mark and Elaine Wrigley, took over in 2012 and, sticking with the venue’s forward-thinking mindset, set about turning it into the city’s top gin bar, pre-empting the spirit’s rise in popularity by a good few years.
We’re here for the monthly gin supper club, held on the final Tuesday of every month.
It’s a wonderfully relaxed evening that showcases perfect serve gin and mixers and cocktails alongside equally high-quality food, combined with entertaining stories about the night’s liquor.
A pleasingly mixed crowd has come along for it, ranging from friend groups to date-night couples of all ages.
The evening is paced perfectly. It begins with an impossibly smooth gin and tonic, followed by a delicious gin liqueur made with oat milk, then a carefully-curated series of gin and mixer drinks.
Tonight’s spirit is Arctic Blue Gin, a crystal clear spirit handcrafted in Finland, full of subtle blueberry aromas.
Atlas Bar’s chefs, Ross and Mike, do a fantastic job pairing the food to drinks.
Following some home-cooked garlic and rosemary-infused bread, we’re treated to three Nordic-inspired courses that accurately complement the gin’s flavour notes.
These dishes expertly capture a flavour-packed Finnish feel, starting with a picture-perfect fresh crab and dill ‘Graavilohi’ on thick toasted rye toast before some winter-warming venison meatballs, cleverly matched with pickled cucumber and sweet and sour cranberries.
To finish, a Runeberg torte, a robust almond-flavoured Finnish pastry paired with a dollop of ice cream and a compote of blueberries steeped in tonight’s star gin.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything else like this in Manchester, and it’s a credit to the Atlas kitchen that they came up with something so impressive for a one-off evening.
Apparently, Mike is new to Atlas, but he’s certainly one to watch.
A love of gin isn’t a prerequisite for these evenings, or even a visit to Atlas, but if you’re already a fan, you’ll be in gin heaven here.
The back bar, and indeed, two well-stocked cupboards, are packed with beautifully-designed gins from all over the world.
And whether you’re new to the juniper-based spirit, or a seasoned pro, the experienced team will have a suggestion you’re almost sure to adore.
You can even win a bottle of gin on the night, too, as they always hold a free raffle.
Finally, it can’t be overstated just how relaxed and happy the staff are. Everyone we deal with is a delight, from Naomi, the hilariously likeable manager, to the serving staff, full of classic Northern charm and wit.
It’s no surprise so many people return month after month to these events.