Arcane cocktail bar Manchester is pretty low key, as its name might suggest. Blink and you might miss it as you head down South King Street from Deansgate. It’s bad and it’s boojee, with slick Victorian décor evocative of the golden age of cocktail making.
Set in an old bookmakers, it’s the kind of bar you would take that friend from out of town who thinks he’s seen and done everything. But they haven’t been to Arcane. When they do, they’ll be begging to stick around for another round.
Step out of the light and take the stairs down to this basement haunt where a standard-bearing cocktail parlour awaits. The décor expresses its Victorian bent with bare brickwork, curved cosy leather booths and intricate bookshelves nodding back to the 19th century.
Grab a cosy spot by the grandfather clock and kick back to the sound of retro jangles that you can’t help but tap a foot to. It’s table service all round so you can be sure a barkeep will whip up whatever you fancy or make suggestions if you haven’t got anything in mind.
Founder and co-owner Gary Kilroy describes the place as ‘somewhere you feel like you’ve been to before. It’s homely and familiar yet new at the same time.’
As well as the homely ambiance, the nattily-attired bartenders are deadly serious about drinks too. Tom Lloyd, a pioneer in the current mania for craft cocktails, tells us that there’s a personal story behind almost all of the drinks on the Arcane list. His bespoke concoction Lloyd and Son Revitalising Love Tonic is an inventive mix of green chartreuse, cognac, dry curacao, lemonbalm and basil, topped with a healthy dash of bitters. It’s a healing elixir and a love tonic so grab one for your date next time you’re out and who knows where the night might lead? It’s ideal if you want to go on a love tonic-fuelled stroll to nearby Parsonage Gardens and carve your names into a tree or something.
On to the rest. Other favourite concoctions include Polski Pear and the Dramble. But they’re not for the faint-hearted.
The Polski Pear is served up in a very swanky vintage wine glass. It’s a fiery drink with a base of pear-infused Zubrowska Vodka topped with Nochello Hazelnut and walnut liqueur, black pepper, lemon and egg white. You’ve never tasted anything like it. Refreshing in summer but warming in winter, we’d recommend this one all year round.
The Dramble takes its inspiration from the bamboo forests of Japan. It’s a heavenly mix of Escubac sweetdram aperitif with Yuzu Sake and lemon bitters. If you know what sake is, you might want to order just one of these, unless you fancy being carried up the stairs to your taxi.
If you’re feeling a tad adventurous, order yourself a Sage and Onion daiquiri or the Ryes and Shine cocktail which comes with a side of house-made bacon liqueur. That’s right. Bacon liqueur. Let us know what you think.
Arcane is just the sort of joint that makes you want to drink well. The old school table service, the fresh ingredients, the old-timely glasses and the bartender banter make this place more unique than your average drinking den.
You’ll find few pedestrian rum and cokes here and the personal atmosphere and good crowd make this place a stellar night out. Whether you’re taking your mate from out of town for a quick tipple or the love of your life for a healing elixir, this is your quintessential neighbourhood haunt.
The drinks are inventive, the vibe is electric and it’s the sort of place that’ll have you coming off as both low maintenance and possessing good taste. Now that’s a nice combination.
2 S King St, Manchester M2 6EX