It’s no secret that Manchester loves a drink. The city’s full to the brim with old school pubs, chic cocktail bars and late-night drinking dens perfect for a party.
But where do you go when you’re looking for something a little bit more… intimate?
Hidden across Manchester, there’s a number of secret sipping spots just waiting to be discovered.
How many of these secret bars do you know?
Speak In Code
A cafe by day, serving up sandwiches and coffee to the masses, by 7pm Speak In Code transforms into a stylish secret cocktail bar – dishing up ingredient-led cocktails (think homemade cordials, infused spirits and shrubs), alongside a selection of entirely plant-based small plates. Accessed via a backstreet doorway, find it off the beaten track just behind Albert Square.
Jackson’s Row, Manchester M2 5ND
This hidden bar might look like a garish American bodega from the outside, but don’t be fooled. You can’t pick up a pint of milk and a paper here – but they do do some great cocktails. Try their ‘cheeri-f*ckin-O’ – a creamy mix of vanilla vodka and ice cream, coffee liqueur. It comes topped with a sprinkling of (yes, you guessed it) Cheerios and Cinnamon Crunch. Winning.
100-102 High St, Manchester M4 1HP
The Blind Tyger
Accessed via a secret door in Sandinista, locate the buzzer and a door will pop open allowing you to make the descent into this hidden drinking den filled with leather booths, dark panelling and curiosity cabinets filled with period memorabilia. Each cocktail is inspired by a piece of history from the 19th century. They also offer a unique selection of gin flights – something we’ve not seen elsewhere in the city.
2½ Old Bank St, M2 7PF
Not secret but definitely hidden, 1837 can be found sequestered in the basement of Corn Exchange steak restaurant Alston Bar & Beef. Speakeasy in style, there are over 60 gins to be tried on the back bar plus a list of classic and bespoke cocktails. Alston makes its own cold compound gin infusions in house, and this really is the house speciality. There’s wine and beer, too, if you don’t feel like getting ginny with it though.
Cathedral St, Manchester M4 3TR
La Boca is easy to miss but well worth seeking out. Opened by a couple with a real passion for Spanish food, all the produce they sell is sourced authentically and sustainably to support small farmers and businesses in Spain. They also stock interesting Manchester craft beers, small batch gins and some lovely wines. So it’s not all Spanish, just the foodie bits. Lounge in La Boca Cafe Bar & Charcuteria on a Wednesday for a free pinxto with every drink.
14 Turner St, Manchester M4 1DZ
Wood & Co.
To find the entrance look out for the nondescript “goods entrance” sign tucked away discreetly down a Manchester side street. Once inside, drink in the oh-so-shiny black tiling and ornate bar whilst enjoying unassuming table service and intelligently made cocktails. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask for their fernet branca espresso martini – the best we’ve had in the city.
39 S King St, Manchester M2 6DE
Behind Closed Doors
The sleaziest of all of Manchester’s hidden bars, BCD is certainly not for the prudish. The whole place revels in debauchery, from its menus, which feature drinks such as the Furry Cup and the Wet Dream, to the decor which features explicit photographs from porn mags torn out and plastered all over the ceilings. There are rotary dial phones on tables too – which you can use to make an order at the bar or chat up another table if you so wish. Ideal for a hot date but probably not the best place to take your mum or the vicar.
93 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LW
Located down a Northern Quarter back alley, this retro gamer paradise has consoles from 70s, 80s and 90s covering old school favourites like Pac Man and Space Invaders as well as fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Cocktails are named after game characters (Princess Peach, anyone?) and they’ve got a solid selection of retro crisps too.
2 Short St, Manchester M4 1PW
A hip members-only co-working space by day, as night draws in The Daisy transforms into an esoteric subterranean wine and cocktail bar. If you’re a fan of a proper martini, this is the spot for you because they’ve twelve different variations on the menu. Open to the public Wednesday – Sunday, find it underneath popular NQ eatery Evelyns.
44 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LA
Hiding up a little backstreet just off Deansgate, from the outside you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an antique bookshop of some description. Step inside and descend the stairs, though, and you’ll find a cosy little underground speakeasy. Dark and intimate, it’s a wonderful spot for a date night. Make sure to check out their cocktail specials board to discover the latest concoctions the bar team is working on.
2 S King St, Manchester M2 6DQ
This Shudehill bar looks like an unsuspecting laundromat from the outside, but all is certainly not quite as it seems at The Washhouse. One of the worst kept secrets in Manchester, behind its deceptive frontage lies a dark and sultry cocktail bar slinging out seriously good drinks. To get in, you’ll need to use the retro rotary dial phone in the corner. Just make sure to book in advance, they don’t just let anyone in. And leave that bin bag full of washing at home.
19 Shudehill, Manchester M4 2AF
This 80’s basement hangout is accessed via an unassuming door inside its brother site Dogs n Dough. Signature cocktails are wittily-named and include the Puckerman (limoncello, bitters, pear drop), Fistful of Quarters (rum, gingerbread, raisin and almond) and the Bounty Hunter (rum, coconut, mango, lime, cream and coconut dust). The perfect spot for whiling away a few hours on the huge American pool tables with mates.
17 Bow Ln, Manchester M2 4FW
One of Manchester’s best-loved hidden bars, you’ll find Corbieres discreetly located down an access-only side street near St Ann’s Square. Descend the stairs and you’ll enter a cavernous drinking den filled with oak barrels, a cave-like roof and one of the best jukeboxes in Manchester. It’s one of the most notorious drinking dens in the city for a reason.
2 Half Moon Street, Manchester, M2 7PB
Formerly known as The Temple of Convenience, in a previous life, this quirky little beer bar functioned as a Victorian public toilet. Now home to a fantastic array of bottled and draught beers from around the world, it’s also blessed with a grand jukebox packed with some amazing Manchester bands, many of whom frequent The Temple.
100 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester, M1 5JW
Science + Industry
Accessed via a secret staircase, Science + Industry is home to some of the best cocktails in Manchester. Equipped with its own mini-chemistry lab in the back, on any given day you can bet that the team is busy behind the scenes working on the finer details of distillation, filtration, and crystallisation. An added plus – when you start feeling a bit boozy you can order dirty American food from adjoining bar, Cane and Grain.
49 -51 Thomas St, Manchester M4 1NA
The Seven Oaks
The ultimate secret bar. Open to everyone in the day, come the stroke of midnight it transforms into one of the most exclusive watering holes in Manchester. From 12am, landlord Phil Greenwood only lets in hospitality workers, requiring proof of employment to gain admission. If you do manage to wangle your way in, you’ll find everyone from high-end mixologists to Wetherspoons bartenders enjoying a drink. It’s nothing fancy, but that’s kind of the charm.
5 Nicholas St, Manchester M1 4HL
Dusk Til Pawn
From the front this bar looks like a quirky little pawn shop, but behind the facade lies one of the finest cocktail bars in Manchester. With a jukebox, killer drinks and a speakeasy vibe, it’s great for a party on a Saturday night. Famous for their picklebacks, make sure you try their legendary Pawnstar martini, too.
Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DN