Some say the word cocktail is derived from the practice of decorating alcoholic drinks with peacock feathers. Some that it comes from a mispronunciation of coquetier the French word for eggcup. Others that it relates to the practice of livening up an old tired horse by putting a ginger suppository up its backside so that the animal would “cock its tail up and be frisky.”
We have no idea which explanation, if any, is true but we do know that Manchester’s first ever seven day cocktail festival is in town this week bringing great collaborations between some great bars and world class spirits. Here are a couple we visited this week.
The Ginnaisance in association with Portobello Road Gin at El Gato Negro.
When I think of cocktails I think of The Savoy. I’ve never been, but I have read one or two of their books as I would think any bartender or anyone with a passion for cocktails would have done. Their drinks and their reputation conjure up images of a 1940s black & white film noir with smartly dressed bartenders in their fitted white jackets and ties, so I was absolutely thrilled to attend this event in partnership with The American Bar at The Savoy, with actual ‘real bartenders’ from that very hotel. And how dashing and handsome they were shaking those drinks on the bar in The Black Cat, El Gato Negro’s top floor cocktail bar! They didn’t half look the part!
The drinks themselves weren’t bad either with gin courtesy of Portobello Road. It’s a good one. We tasted six different concoctions created and named for Manchester. Sister Suffragette was easily our favourite, almost like a sweet smoky negroni with Laiphroig and Cognac. Short and strong. Great Abel was unusual, a bit like toothpaste with the addition of the Fernet Branca Menta and not one I’m keen to give another go. But The Temperance Club was brilliant, with coffee and edible Madonna garnishes. Who wouldn’t want to eat her up? Tom Coates from Portobello Road Gin was a great host and worked the room to perfection, keeping everyone talking and drinking. We also grabbed one of the Savoy boys and had him make us one of his own specialities, a Boulevardier with bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari. Delicious. We mean the drink.
The Art of the Old Fashioned Dinner in partnership with Woodford Reserve Bourbon at Tarriff & Dale
Traditionally cocktails were a mixture of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. The old fashioned whiskey cocktail was one of the first. These days you can wait up to 20 mins watching an enthusiastic bartender stir bitters and ‘water of life’ round a glass of ice. But it doesn’t need to take that long. We found this out at a masterclass at Tariff & Dale in the Northern Quarter and learned how to make a proper one.
We arrived in a private back room with a table full of glasses, spirits, sugar, bitters, water and Kentucky bourbon Woodford Reserve. Nate, the ambassador for Woodford Reserve, was knowledgable and passionate about the brand. Apparently everyone’s taste buds will taste slightly different notes and nobody’s wrong. We got hints of honey, vanilla and apple. We made two. One was too rich, murky and with bits of ingredients floating around. Unpalatable. We called that one the Irwell. The other was a masterpiece of chocolate, cloves and orange. It tasted like Christmas in a glass. We called that one Sexy Santa. Tip: you can get a more accurate smell and taste of whiskey (or wine) if you part your lips slightly when inhaling.