From delicious dive bars and brilliant boozers to chic and swanky cocktail bars with pricey drops and panoramic views, Manchester has it all when it comes to getting a bit squiffy. There's a pretty extensive selection of bars on offer though, so which to head for? We've put together what we deem the best bars in Manchester, so take a look and prepare to raise a glass or two to the spirit of the city. Cheers.
If you have an interest in real ale and have been to Manchester before, odds are you’ve either already been here or been given a glowing review of this mecca of craft beer and cask ale. Port Street Beer House’s owners are also behind the region’s favourite beer festival, Victoria Baths’ Indy Man Beer Con which takes place each October.
There’s something pretty magical about what the local restaurant group, Living Ventures, has done to Manchester’s food and drink scene. With several high-end restaurants and bars on their roster, it would be easy to dismiss each as lacking that individual charm, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Stepping onto the podium as a case in point is The Alchemist.
Housed between a florist and a kebab house, Big Hands is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place. A deceptively small entrance belies the Alice in Wonderland adventure that dwells within, where backstage passes and posters from bygone shows adorn the walls and are, in some parts, so dense that they may even be load bearing.
Halfway up Beetham Tower, Manchester's tallest building, separating the lower Hilton hotel with posh apartments above, sits two floors of Cloud 23, a bar offering the best views of any in the city. The bar itself impresses the moment the lift doors open and you're welcomed with a smile, shown to your sofa or table and offered a cocktail menu as dizzying as the heights that you're occupying.
The surroundings are comfortable, especially the discreet booth seating, although the volume of the music can sometimes be an issue for conversation. Many come just for the excellent burgers but the live entertainment, classy drinks and up-for-it crowd prove there's plenty of substance to this impressive spot.
Just a stone’s throw from the famous ‘Four Banks’ of Chorlton, Electrik has the vibe of a place John Peel might have built just to listen to records in. It’s a 1970s tinged bar that serves up some stonking real ale (including their own award-winning collaborations with local brewer Happy Valley), and good wholesome food, with arguably the best Sunday Roast in Chorlton. It’s all been put together by Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey, the people behind the legendary Manchester Electric Chair parties and the owners of Didsbury’s Volta bar.
The small upstairs area above this popular Wilthington bar isn’t really big enough to house the parties and gigs that it does, but try telling that to the trendy types who’ve made it their local. As well as live music, there’s a comedy night called Quippopotamus, poetry, a quiz night that gives away free chips called simply ‘Quiz and Chips’ and appearances from emerging talent in all manner of creative disciplines.
Gorilla occupies the space in the railway arches of Whitworth Street that was formally Manchester's most experimental performance venue, the Green Room. For experimental, read a man playing the piano with his penis. The clever folks behind Gorilla now have a hit on their hands; a much-needed Northern Quarter-style bar on the other side of town.
The drinks aren’t bad – you’ll find beers from local breweries like First Chop on draught and staff pour a selection of classic cocktails very well. Elsewhere, the bar also runs art exhibitions and a ping-pong league, while evenings see appearances from some of Manchester’s finest DJs.
With a sumptuous sky bar and tasting menu by ambitious executive chef, Aiden Byrne, Manchester House celebrates the city’s inimitable sense of style with aplomb. As the flagship restaurant and bar of Manchester’s most prolific and showy restaurant group, Living Ventures, no expense has been spared on the sleek industrial-chic design – or on the multi-million pound state of the art kitchens.
Soup Kitchen strikes a unique balance between enduringly pleasant canteen in the day and anything-goes club by night, not to mention a favourite venue of travelling bands. It has one of the most jam-packed schedules of any venue in Manchester, and its passionate management are always making changes to improve the experience.
It’s not often you can describe a venue as looking like the set of a 1970s psychological horror film and mean it as a compliment. But The Gaslamp basement bar has a certain Dario Argento feel about it – as well as being a comfortable and well-stocked boozer. Housed in the former kitchen of a street children’s mission, it’s retained much of the character of its historic Victorian building, with an added cosiness that goes nicely with a pint of real ale.
Manchester doesn’t do badly for tiki bars but The Liars Club is arguably where the formula is realised best. So much more than just a Zombie and Mai Tai haven, The Liars Club serves up a variety of tropical inspired cocktails and tiki variations on old classics, with crowd-pleasing sharers that become a party piece at the bar – think slurping pina coladas from a hollowed out pineapple and drinks served in novelty steins, barrels and volcanoes.
While it may not have the best selection of drinks (think Jack Daniels and Euro- faves by the bottle), the regular haunt of Elbow’s Guy Garvey is the kind of place where all you need is a beer and a whiskey chaser. The kind of place where you could waste a tenner on the jukebox and hide away for days.
Having already garnered a hefty following under the former moniker of Corridor, Under New Management is already proving popular. Channelling a modern-day New York speakeasy, this stripped-back cocktail lounge is busy with soothing post-work bevvies to lively late night drinking sessions.
A new addition to the well-to-do suburb of West Didsbury, Volta is the little sibling of Chorlton’s much loved Electrik, and has followed its elder’s example in fitting into the landscape while treading its own path. A little more formal than its Chorlton counterpart, Volta has an emphasis on fine foods and a keen interest in the ales of the region.
Once the plethora of bars and pubs around the Northern Quarter have kicked out, there’s only one place to go. For good or ill, that place is Blackdog Ballroom. Open until 4am on school nights and even later on the weekend, this is the place for that ‘one more drink’ you definitely don’t need but crave so desperately.
Yes, it’s a curious name for a live music venue, but The Deaf Institute is a great new use for what was once, in less enlightened times, a deaf and dumb school. Another venue in the Trof empire (see Gorilla and Albert Hall), the ground floor offers space for drinking and dining, while upstairs there's a music hall with space for a few hundred people. Along with live acts, regular club nights keep the crowds coming.