If Manchester were a person on a night out, they’d probably be the last one standing. This city knows how to party, and no matter where your night is heading – a theatre production, a fancy meal, a brilliant gig or an all-night rave – you’ll probably want to start in a good bar.
From friendly craft beer bars to elegant drinking dens to sticky-floored rathskellers, our cup overfloweth with brilliant watering holes in these parts. There’s innovation by the cocktail-bucketload too: the pioneering craft scene means there are plenty of taprooms to explore, cool suburbs harbour thriving independent spots, and a new generation of mixologists are shaking up the way we drink cocktails. Make no mistake: this city sets the bar for boozing. Here are the very best bars in Manchester right now.
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Best bars in Manchester
The Flok team had perfected the art of hospitality at their first two bars: balearic party shack Folk in East Didsbury and the (slightly) more grown-up wine bar Wine and Wallop on Lapwing Lane. In this latest venture, they’ve honed the perfect mix of laid-back atmosphere and serious drinks offering. The bar features a cosy retro interior, well-chosen wine, an incredible sherry list and, downstairs, you’ll find a hidden, gold leaf-lined vault complete with record player and minibar, which groups can rent out for private fiestas.
How did we ever cope before the perfectly mixed negronis of Henry C came along? This tiny cocktail bar has made a big impression on the boozers of Manchester thanks to an impeccable and inventive drinks list that changes regularly. Choose from the menu or ask for your favourite classic – if they’ve got the ingredients, there’s no doubt they’ll nail it. Get down early to nab a table.
Nineteenth-century architect Alfred Waterhouse designed this grand hotel, bar and restaurant, and what a job he did. The iconic joint on Oxford Street has long been a landmark and made even more so by new owners and a million-pound facelift. The bar was put into the capable hands of DJs-turned-restaurateurs Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey. Expect similar fare at their award-winning eatery, Volta in Didsbury. Think small plates, cocktails and an inspired wine list. A fairy-light lit courtyard and fabulous DJs in the basement mean there’s no need to go on anywhere else.
Not content with being the best steak restaurant in town, Hawksmoor has to go and smash it on the cocktail front, too. Not that we’re complaining. Inside the handsome, low-lit bar, the pin-sharp staff serve a selection of very beautiful, very boozy cocktails. We recommend the full-fat Old Fashioned, a beast of a drink made with butter-infused extra strong whisky (£13.25).
When it first flung open its doors in 2011, Port Street was welcomed by a handful of beer geeks and a few raised eyebrows. Now, it’s always packed and has proven itself well ahead of the craft beer trend. If you have an interest in real ale and have been to Manchester before, odds are you’ve already been here. If not, get going. It’s the ultimate haven for beer appreciators. Port Street’s owners are also behind the region’s favourite beer festival, Victoria Baths’ Indy Man Beer Con, which takes place each October.
The 20-minute bus journey to Levenshulme is worth it for Isca alone. This wine bar sure is small but it has a mighty selection of bottles, all hand-picked by co-founder and Where The Light Gets In sommelier, Caroline Dubois. Expect rare, funky and fascinating vino served with insight into its backstory.
Found on thriving Cutting Room Square, The Jane Eyre is a real corker. The wine and beer list is well curated, but it’s the cocktails you’ll want to try first. The menu is short but sweet, with a focus on offbeat spirits and punchy flavours. Order a Sweet Jane – bourbon, Amaro Averna, amarena cherry and bitters – and settle into a stylish, mid-century armchair for the night.
If you haven’t danced on the tables at Schloss, have you even been to Manchester? This bohemian pleasure palace doubles as a bar, bierkeller and entertainment centre – and it gets hella rowdy. Throw in alpine cocktails, homemade schnapps and hearty bar meals (plus regular showcases from the Haus band) and you’ve got one of the best (and busiest) bars in town. As well as being a destination in its own right, Albert’s Schloss is the obvious start or end to your night at the Albert Hall music venue upstairs.
Electrik smashes the laid-back knees-up vibe that Manchester does so well. Local DJs-turned-restaurateurs Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey are behind this institution. Inside, it’s a 1970s-tinged bar that serves stonking real ale and a great Sunday roast. The vibe changes dramatically depending on when you go: what is a family-friendly joint by day transforms into a full-on shindig, complete with questionable dancing, come Friday and Saturday nights.
This place started out as a much-needed Northern Quarter-style bar on the other side of town, but has now evolved into a full-fat club, playing host to legends like Derrick Carter in the bar and massive names (MistaJam, Mike Skinner, Hot Wuk) in the main room. Tuck into a gourmet kebab and some craft beers downstairs or head up to the Gin Parlour on the mezzanine – it’s stocked with some of the finest bottles from around the world.
Indecisive wine-lovers will adore Salut. This independent bar serves glasses and tasters with its Enomatic dispensers – like vending machines but for vino. The fancy equipment means they can open expensive bottles and serve by the glass at a more affordable price tag, and you can taste your way through the lot. They’ve got a stonking selection of classics, and friendly staff will help where needed. It’s simple – just top up your Salut card, push the wine button and do your worst.
After more solid recommendations?
Buzzing, innovative and open all hours, this is a city that draws visitors from all over the world looking for a fresh hit of culture. From world-renowned restaurants to out-there art exhibitions, cutting-edge theatre to clubs that blast bangers into the wee hours, Manchester has it all.