A Christmas Miracle hits the Northern Quarter

Winter is coming and what better way than to shake off those seasonal blues by eating and drinking yourself to your ‘happy place’ in a winter wonderland where it’s always Christmas? I fear that this may become an addiction.

Traditional Christmas fair…?

Welcome to Miracle, the Northern Quarter’s seasonal celebration spot with Christmas-themed drinks and traditional Christmas food with an Almost Famous twist. Turkey slathered in butter slammed on a roll and topped with delights! You want it don’t you?

Yes, Miracle is the home of the Miracle burger! Now this is a proper turkey burger, not like those rancid ones you remember from school dinners, oh no, proper shredded turkey, sausage stuffing, potatoes AND brussel sprouts. As well as some extra pigs in blankets for garnish (that’s my kind of garnish!). It’s also worth mentioning that Miracle has really produced a miracle by making brussel sprouts taste really, very good!

Chris Bull, a man who knows his burgers, fries and general junk food, usually flat-out refuses to eat turkey yet, he scoffed away a Miracle burger with pleasure. A true compliment to the chefs!

Along with the mouth-watering burgers we tried the beef in beer, which has as much booze in as the cocktails, and the gobble gobble gravy fries which are topped with shredded buttered turkey, cranberry sauce and gravy! Christmas really has come early this year.

Gobble Gobble Gravy Fries, Beef in Beer and the Miracle turkey sandwich

Lead in through the back of Socio Rehab and up the stairs (my female sense of direction was scrambled by then) we emerged into a wintery wonderland of cocktails and debauchery, as well as fantastical decorations to get you into the festive spirit, including this one by Kat Crass Stitch!

So, I can’t even believe it’s taken me six paragraphs to get on to the drinks… The fantastic Mr Tom Higham was on hand to provide the cocktails, plenty of festive cheer as well as general insults and creative cursing (thanks, Tom!).

But seriously, the cocktails are inspired! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to drinks, but these were divine. The Apres Ski works as a delicious post-burger palate cleanser and was accurately described as ‘a melted mint Vienetta in a glass’ by one Sarah Nosh. Yummy!

The Candy Cane Collins, which will probably become my ‘usual’, is a delightfully punchy vanilla vodka cocktail topped up with CREAM SODA! A very welcome blast from the past, seriously, why don’t I drink Cream Soda all the time? I’m questioning my decisions in life as I type.

Candy Cane Collins and Apres Ski

Tom has put so much effort into this cocktail menu and he loves it so dearly that he even differentiates the candy canes for different drinks; a seasoned pro.

As well as cocktails there is the traditional mulled wine, spiced cider and boozy hot chocolate to warm the cockles of an evening as well as some bottled beers, wines and spirits.

Miracle also has more sweet treats in the form of desserts! The ‘Sweet Things’ come as a skewer of delicious pastry/doughy/brownie-type delicacies with like a custard and nutmeg dip. So delicious I completely forgot to take a picture. What was I saying earlier about not having a sweet tooth? I think Miracle has changed me!

Now, if you like the finer things in life then the Xmas in New York is for you; a cocktail made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon topped up with Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and finished with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. It was as hedonistic and rich as it sounds and, granted I couldn’t drink too many, it truly hits the spot. In fact, it hits about 25 million different spots, it’s so damn good!

A Very Berry (with gin) Christmas and Xmas in New York

Miracle is launching to the masses this Thursday (22nd) at 6pm. The first 50 folk to show up will be treated to free food and the first 100 will each receive a free drink! So, don your Christmas jumper and lift those Christmas spirits into delicious, drunken oblivion…

(We all need more of Kat’s Christmas crafts in our lives, I’m sure you’ll all agree. So fuck your family off this Christmas by taking them some of her lovely work: http://folksy.com/shops/CrassStitchCrafts.)

Spirit Tasting with Drinks Enthusiast

So, you want to hear about the newest, coolest and tastiest spirits around? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

What follows are some brief tasting notes and cocktail suggestions passed on to myself from the ever-knowledgeable Drinks Enthusiast, Dave Marsland fresh from Fusion bar at the Manchester 235 Casino.

New Kids on the Block

First up was Snow Queen Vodka, which is made from organic wheat from the mountains of Kazakhstan.  The five-time filtered premium vodka is a competition winner and has shot to the top of the vodka world in recent years.

With a strong but subtle flavour, it’s great for cocktails but due to the long filtration period also makes a fine, smooth tipple all by itself, boasting a dry and creamy texture with a subtle finish.

You can buy Snow Queen here or in Manchester’s Harvey Nicholls or Selfridges, it is also readily available in the best cocktail bars in Manchester. Follow Snow Queen Vodka on Twitter.

Dave’s cocktail of choice was the Snow Queen Godfather:

Glass – Highball

Ingredients –
50ml Snow Queen
25ml Amaretto
15ml Grenadine
Dash of soda water
2 wedges of lime

Method – Shake all ingredients together and pour into a highball glass over ice. Add a dash of soda and garnish with limes.

Dave shaking things up Snow Queen style

Italy’s very first vodka was next as we sampled the elegant Roberto Cavalli vodka dubbed ‘fashion on the rocks’. You may have heard of the Cavalli brand before; Roberto, a fashion designer from Florence is famed for creating the sand-blast effect on jeans. One to remember for future pub quizzes…

The vodka itself has a lighter texture than the Snow Queen but, perhaps paradoxically, is more robust and intense on the tongue. It definitely gets your attention from the first sip.

It has been distilled four times in a column still (for two weeks each time) ensuring only the finest and highest quality alcohol makes it to the bottle.

You can buy Cavalli Vodka here or in Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls. Follow Roberto Cavalli on Twitter.

The cocktail for this was the sweet and sharp Cavalli Tiger:

Glass – Martini

Ingredients –
50ml Roberto Cavalli
30ml passion fruit pulp
20ml pineapple juice
5ml Grenadine
5ml Cointreau

Method – Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into chilled Martini glass. Garnish with half passion fruit.

A couple of Cavalli Tigers! Rawr!

Next up we were treated to not one, but TWO gins from G’Vine. These gins originate from the France and given that both varieties are made with the exact same ingredients, they taste completely different.

The ingredients are just found in differing quantities in each of the gins yet, both provide a luxurious floral finish. The Floraison is, no surprise, the more floral and ‘delicate’ variety and the Nouasion has more traditional gin flavour, a juniper kick complimented by a wonderful nutmeg and cardamom hit.

Due to the Floraison’s wonderful aromatic citrus, coriander and ginger notes, I would definitely recommend this to folks who are unsure whether they like gin or not. After this, they will.

You can purchase both bottles here and I believe they also stock them in Socio Rehab. Follow G’Vine on Twitter.

The cocktail of choice was made with the Nouasion bottle and is a G’Vine Basil Smash:

Glass – Rocks

Ingredients –
60ml G’Vine Nouaison
Half a lemon, cut in triangles
25ml sugar syrup
Handful of basil

Method – Muddle the lemon triangles with the basil. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake. Double-strain into a crushed ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with basil leaf.

G’Vine gin

Next on the list of delights was the elusively named June Liqueur which is a speciality grape liquor produced by the lovely G’Vine folk. It’s made using three different types of French grapes; Ugi, Chardonnay and Merlot.

It has an extremely sweet and earthy flavour with strong hints of lavender which gives it a whole host of potential for mixing or simply sipping over ice on those summer’s afternoons (which now seem to be a distance memory for us in the UK).

Not to pick a favourite or show any biased but I really suggest that you try this stuff. It’s not like anything I’d had before and generally not being a fan of sweet drinks myself, I think this one has the ability to surprise a lot of people who may misjudge it at first.

You can buy June Liqueur online here but it has yet to be seen in any bars in Manchester so let’s get spreading the word and bring June to our streets all year round. Follow June Liqueur on Twitter.

My favourite cocktail of the night, Dave’s take on the classic, The Floral Martini:

Glass – Martini

Ingredients –
15ml June
45ml G’Vine Flouraison
15ml Dry Vermouth
3 dashes Orange Bitters

Method – Stir all ingredients with ice and then strain into chilled Martini glass

June Liqueur: A real treat that comes recommended

Last up, was THREE tequilas… by this time we were fairly well-oiled so three tequilas induced a deep breath from those around the table. Excellia Tequila boasts 100% Algave tequila aged in Grand Cru casks, each bottle has been aged a year longer than the last.

So, aged for one year is the Blanco which is clear, at two years we have the Reposado which has a light tint and gold Añejo (Spanish for ‘aged’) has been aged for three years.

The Blanco is not as light as its clear look would have you believe, instead it’s spicey notes and black pepper flavours warm the palate straight away. The Reposado actually sits as a more mellow drink with floral notes and probably makes for one of the best ‘sipping’ tequilas I’ve ever tasted, with rum-like qualities in that respect.

Following from this the Añejo provides a cleaner, sweeter taste with hints of raisin which lasts on the tongue. Follow Excellia Tequila on Twitter.

Excellia Tequila is brand spanking new and will be available here from September 27.

Final cocktail of the evening was the Rude Cosmopolitan:

Rude Cosmopolitan

Glass – Martini

Ingredients –
30ml Excellia
30ml Cointreau
45ml Cranberry juice
15ml fresh lime juice

Method – Shake ingredients with ice. Double strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with orange zest.

Excellia Tequila – Reposado, Añejo and Blanco

Hopefully you are now inspired to order some new drinks and have an experiment with these flavours, if you need anymore information then get in touch with myself or Dave.

I can tell you that by the end of the night we were certainly feeling experimental and below is a very special recipe which will probably never be recreated again but you’re more than welcome attempt to make out the masterpiece (- it was very nice).

Impromptu creation notes

Finally, a big thank you to Mr Marsland for having us for the night. If you want more information and insights into the modern world of drinks check out his website: http://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/innis-gunn-tasting-notes/

We were in the very capable hands of Dave Marsland all evening

New mini-food menu launched at Tib Street Tavern

If beer, food and football, or just beer and food, is your thing you’ll be pleased to know that the Northern Quarter’s Tib Street Tavern has launched a food menu!

The traditional-style pub is serving up traditional pub grub with quality. The menu is a ‘mini’ one for the moment and it serves as a small taster for things to come when the full menu is launched.

Mini Menu

We opted to share the Currywurst sausage with chips and home made sauce, it was definitely the pub-grub that we needed! With the food at a very reasonable price, it provides the perfect amount satisfaction and sustenance to get your started on the pitchers of beer.

Currywurst Sausage and Chips with Homemade Sauce

The chips were great and seasoned really nicely (my partner enjoyed them and he’s definitely a chip man! The sausage was yummy and the homemade sauce was a tangy, tomato and onion mix with a hint of spices – really good!

You’ll also be pleased to know that a four-pint pitcher of Amstel is only £10 from 3pm-7pm, and only £12 afterwards, so you don’t have to keep going to the bar if the match is on – perfect!

Although Tib Street Tavern shows football it doesn’t allow football colours to be worn. Odd at first but it actually makes for a really friendly vibe, especially if you’re not there to watch the game.

Bliss…

We’ve always experienced great service at Tib Street Tavern and our last visit was no different with table service being provided if we were running low and a complimentary peanut mix for all tables as the hours grew wee.

It’s the little things which make a bar great.

I’ve been meaning to blog about this place for a while as it has quickly become a favourite of mine. It’s unassuming and low-key and although it won’t excite everyone it has a charm about it which will always keep me going back.

The first time I visited, the bar was super busy, and my three friends and I wanted cocktails so we asked to see a cocktail menu.

Instead of saying that they didn’t have a cocktail menu, the really lovely girls behind the bar said that the cocktail menu hadn’t quite been finalised yet but they were more than willing to make us some of the classics (margarita, cosmopolitan etc).

We ordered some cocktails and they were fantastic, if a little impromptu! Since then, we were hooked and it set us up for a great night!

Great service, with a (genuine) smile, great drinks offers, a new menu and an even newer one in the pipeline… what’s not to like? Get down and try it out!

Tib Street Tavern 74 Tib St, Manchester, M4 1LG

Indy Man Beer Con: FULL LIST ANNOUNCED!

With less than three weeks to go, the line-up of beers, food and events has taken shape for the Independent Manchester Beer Convention or Indy Man Beer Con for short.

The full cask brewery list has been announced and will feature the likes of Manchester’s own Marble and Quantum as well as some treats from afar including Brodies Beers from London and Cantillon from Belguim.

There will also be a variety of kegs on show supplying quality ales, hosted by the brewers themselves. So if you’ve ever wondered why Brewdog favour heavy USA-style hopping or where Thornbridge got the inspiration for their Imperial Russian Stout then you can take this chance to ask them! (Full list of casks and kegs at the bottom of this piece)

As well as beer, there will also be plenty of tasty foodie treats on offer, pop-up style. The Great North Pie Company will be there and presenting a special cold cutting pork pie, which has been created especially for the event (meaning it would be rude not to try it!).

Also on offer will be one of the hottest pop-ups around, Dirty Dogs, who will be dishing out hot dogs covered in their unique collection of filthy toppings. And if you fancy something a little more exotic then South Indian restaurant, Sindoor, will be providing top quality food which packs a punch.

There is also the five-course beer and food paired meal with beers selected by Port Street Beer House and food by the fantastic Aumbry (a real treat!) – Limited tickets remain so get in there quick!

Other events include a special ‘Meet The Brewer’ session will be taking place with with Kjetil Jikiun (Nogne 0), as well as tasting events from Summer Wine and Red Willow.

Also, a talk on craft beer, entitled ‘What the HELL is craft beer?’ will be held and feature some craft-beer aficionados such as James Watt, one half of the Brewdog brainwave, and Zak Avery, the beer boy and former UK Beer Writer of the Year.

The famous ‘Ping Pong Club’ will be taking over of the rooms and bringing their ping ponging equipment you will be able to have a few games of ping pong as well as live music by Former Bullies.

As ever with these events, there will be a variety of impromptu little tastings at keg stalls, as the brewers will no doubt be looking to please customers and encourage them to make the most of their tastings.

Tickets are priced at £6 for the IMBC lite session (12pm – 4.30pm), £9 for the IMBC later session (5.30pm – 11.30pm) or £45 for the IMBC Max session (5.30pm – 11.30pm) which includes a meal with Aumbry paired with beers from Port Street Beer House. Tickets are available online: http://indymanbeercon.eventbrite.co.uk/

Full cask list: Beavertown, Black Jack, Brodies, Burscough, Buxton, Camden, Cantillon, Darkstar, First Chop, Gadds, Hackney, Hardknott, Harviestoun, Hawkshead, Ilkley, Kirkstall, Liverpool Craft, Magic Rock, Mallinsons, Marble, Quantum, Red Willow, Redemption, Sierra Nevada and Tyne Bank.

Full keg list: Brewdog, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, Tempest, Hardknott, Lovibonds, Summer Wine Brewery, Camden Town Brewery, Ilkley Brewery with more beers selected by James Clay and Portable Street Beer House.

Friday 5th  / Saturday 6th October 2012 – Victoria Baths, Manchester –  http://www.indymanbeercon.co.uk/

Blast off at Kosmonaut!

Kosmonaut Logo

After a long (and worthwhile) wait, the doors of Kosmonaut are finally open and the bar is offering a piece of New York’s meat-packing district right here in the Northern Quarter.

Located on Tariff Street, the place is chic with exposed brickwork and pipes and has a minimalistic yet stylish feel to it, including a ‘Walk. Don’t Walk’ sign providing a New York hallmark to add to its gritty feel.

Cocktail Menu, Kosmonaut

The bar is the collaboration of Craig Macdonald, Joe Fearnhead and Alex Johnson, all of whom have a strong cocktail and food background with around 15 years experience of the business.

Craig, Kosmonaut

Craig said: “We didn’t expect the place to be that busy last night but we’re really happy that we got off to a very good start! We wanted to bring a piece of New York to the Northern Quarter but other than that we’re going to let the bar develop and finds its own path so there’s no set theme or concept really.”

What I do know is that you get quality drinks without the extortionate price tag. Stocked with plenty of choice beers such as Brooklyn, Goose Island and even Schlenkerla along with a tempting cocktail menu, it provides something for all tastes. Not only this but it also has a cultured wine menu with Silician reds, rich Riojas and an Argentinian Malbec for under £20, which is incredible! This means that you don’t have to break the bank to go out and enjoy a nice drink with friends.

At the moment, bar snacks such as crisps and nuts are served but in time meals will be served and in the future, the downstairs room will be used as a club/dining/events area. So much to look forward to!

The bar is open for now but the guys are holding an official launch party next Thursday (20th September) so come down to number 10 (Tariff Street) and meet the new kids on the block!

Rum Trail 3: A Trilogy Which Doesn’t Disappoint!

They say that three’s a crowd, bad things come in threes and don’t even get me started on the Godfather Pt III but on this occasion… everyone was glad that the Rum Trails have continued for a third outing.

The Liquorists’ are basically offering up food and drink heaven: six rums, six cocktails paired with six food combinations, great bars with specially reserved tables (no waiting) washed down with… in-depth rum knowledge!

I felt educated afterwards, even if my notes were slightly hazy towards the end.

We started at Hula, rather than the originally planned Kosmonaut, where we were met with Plantation Rum taster by Bibendum Spirits and then a gorgeous Plantation Three Star cocktail called the Atlantic Boat Club Daiquiri – order this! Served up with grilled pineapple and banana, for 30 minutes, we were in the Caribbean!

Next up in Keko Moku we tried the 12-year-old El Dorado Rum, which was really something special and I’d rank it in top spot for the night. The cocktail was a Sanguine Swizzle which I could easily have for breakfast every day (not sure what that says about me) and was a combination of the rum, orange juice, blood orange juice and grapefruit juice – massively refreshing!

Althought trying to resist the temptation to get a pulled pork roll from Almost Famous was almost impossible… But we managed and then offed to Odd for a drink which originated in Scotland! Well, it was spirit mixed with more alcohol, that’s how we roll up there.

A sip and a sip

Basically, you have a sip of ale and then a sip of rum, it’s a simple concept but it works. More importantly, it’s something different, I’ve never had it before and any night when I try something new is a good night!

So, the rum was Matusalem with a wedge of fresh lime and the ale was Titanic steerage, which was described as a “quaffing” ale or a “session” beer.

Jamaican Wray & Nephew Rum 63% with Sticky toffee pudding and pineapple fritters… and more rum.

The chocolate truffles in Tusk were truly luxurious and another favourite of mine with 63% Wray and Nephew Jamaican Rum which was followed by a lovely ploughmans-esque platter at The Blue Pig with a Brugal Blanco Apple Daiquiri.

Sharing platter and Apple Daiquiri at The Blue Pig

However, I don’t want to give away too much and describe every detail of the tour as the anticipation is great…. heading off to the next bar not knowing what awaits you is part of the fun.

All this and a unique way to experience some of Manchester’s best bars, then on to Liquorists HQ at 22Redbank which is top secret and really awesome space.

Plenty to choose from at Liquorist HQ

After plenty of rum and plenty of fun the Thai curry at the end of the night is a lifesaver! And it works really well with the Pussers Navy Rum cocktail served up in Navy Mugs with umbrellas and mixed with coconut milk and perhaps pineapple? Somebody might need to clear that up for me, but I do remember that it was delicious!

Speaking of cocktails and food pairing, one of the most important combinations of all is the people! Tom, from The Liquorists, is a great host and sets the tone perfectly for the evening. In a group of around 12-15 like-minded easy-going drinks lovers you’re always going to have a great night.

My final tweet of the night (which I don’t remember sending), simply read: “Wow, on the way home from @TheLiquorists #RumTrail3! Made new friends, tried new drinks… What makes a better night?” I think that sums up the night pretty well.

In summary, what bang do you get for your buck:

  • Six taster glasses of specially selected rums, from El Dorado, Wray and Nephew, Plantation, Brugal, Matusalem and Pussers.
  • Six cocktails, made with said rum.
  • Six food pairings to accompany the drinks.
  • A Thai Curry and Satay Chicken Skewer at Liquorist HQ
  • £5 money-off voucher for Selfridges Exchange Square when buying alcohol.

For just £35, that’s amazing – and that’s coming from a tight-fisted Scot!

Times and Dates for Rum Trail 3:

The Rum Trails will run for six weeks on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings and the trails start at 6pm or 7pm at Hula. Finishing time all depends on you but we arrived back at Liquorists HQ around 10pm for the last cocktail (which doesn’t explain why we didn’t get home until around 1.30am but that’s an entirely different story!).

You can buy tickets here: http://www.theliquorists.com/trails/rum-trail/ and follow them on Twitter @TheLiquorists. Once you have booked, you’ll get an e-mail with all the exciting secret information to whet the palate before the big night!

Written by Mel.

Ale and Food Matching by BrewDog & The Deaf Institute

The Deaf Institute is offering up delicious food, expertly matched with BrewDog beer, with a six-course Ale and Food Matching extravaganza for just £20 on Thursday 23rd August!

As a beer (and food) lover, this is one of my favourite ways to try new flavours and pairings. In fact, I first realised that beer had the complexity and variety always attributed to wine, was at a Belgian beer and food tasting session at the Edinburgh Food Festival some years ago.

This is because beer can be brewed with a huge variety of ingredients such as chocolate, coffee, strawberries, coconut and herbs and spices – and this is exactly what Brewdog like to experiment with.

The beer can change the flavour of the food and complement it when consumed alongside it but also, with most of this menu, be included in the cooking process and enrich the food itself.

The Deaf Institute has long been a champion purveyor of good food, serving up quality food for cheap prices but also putting on Gourmet dining events each month and now they want to add beer to the mix!

BrewDog, the Scottish brewers, recently opened its very own bar in Manchester, have always been keen to promote the beer and food combo and now the two have a real treat in store for us.

Brewdog has a restaurant called Musa in Aberdeen which has been matching beer and food before matching beer and food was cool.

Josie, at BrewDog’s North West HQ, said: “Because beer has so many guises we feel it can offer even more of a flavour spectrum than wine! Each hop and malt base gives the beer a different character just as a grape would for wine.

“Our beer dinners in the North West have been really popular. I think people’s perception of beer has really changed in the past few years and matching food with beer is no longer an outlandish idea.”

The Deaf Institute chef, who designed the menu based around the beers, will be preparing the food and Brewdog will talk us through the flavour combinations of each course.

Ticket’s are priced at £20 a head and includes half pints of BrewDog’s draught with your food and also some rarities and special tasters for later in the evening.

To get your tastebuds tingling the menu is as follows:

Mini Yorkshire puddings with pork and sage chipolatas and tomato, apple and 5A.M.chutney. Matched with 5 A.M.

Punk IPA battered haddock goujons with homemade tartare sauce, Matched with Punk IPA

Mature cheddar cheese rarebit. Matched with Hardcore

Individual Lancashire cheese hot pots with homemade pickled Dogma cabbage. Matched with Dogma

Cheeses from near and far with assorted Alice Porter chutneys. Matched with Alice Porter.

Frosted chocolate brownie. Matched with Lost Dog.

If you like the sound of this then buy a ticket online here and get yourself down to The Deaf Institute at 7.00pm on Thursday 23rd August, taste some delicious beers matched with scrummy food and ease yourself into the weekend!

Deaf Institute 135 Grosvenor Street  Manchester M1 7HE

BrewDog Mcr 35 Peter St, Manchester M2 5BG

Written by Mel