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Manchester House, Manchester

The 10 best cocktail bars in Manchester

Looking for a top-notch tipple? Head to these cocktail bars in Manchester for the city’s best mixed drinks

By Rob Martin
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Whether you like your cocktails on the rocks or looking like something a can of mixed fruit has been emptied into, Manchester has the cocktail bar for you. After all, with so many quality bars, restaurants and clubs as we have, it comes as little surprise that we’re a city known for appreciating a well-crafted drink. From twists on the classics to creative concoctions crafted with ingredients sourced from across the globe, these cocktail bars in Manchester have proved themselves some of the country’s best. Here’s our pick of the lot – take a peek and order a tipple of two.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Manchester

Best cocktail bars in Manchester

1. Apotheca

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars

The Northern Quarter is home to many a decent cocktail joint, but the appeal of Apotheca is that it makes mixology both approachable and unintimidating for the masses – especially the hordes it welcomes at the weekend. Taking its name from the former apothecary it calls home, the bar acts as a modern-day chemist to Manchester, with remedial pick-me-ups its forte.

2. Dusk Til Pawn

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars

Veiled by neon lights and a misleading pawn shop façade, Dusk Til Pawn packs a powerful punch. It’s got the brooding aesthetic of a New York speakeasy, with industrial stools, corrugated metal, a totally free jukebox serving up a heady mix of Prince and Eurythmics, and plenty of moody wooden furniture.

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A dimly lit bar with a selection of bottles
Photograph: Cottonopolis

3. Cottonopolis

Restaurants Pan-Asian

Housed in a stunning grade II-listed former tailor's studio on the corner of Newton Street and Dale Street, Cottonopolis is a slick bar and restaurant serving up sushi and more to the people of Manchester's Northern Quarter.

Drinkswise, we're talking cocktails that sit (for the most part) just on the right side of gimmickery, though beneath the frills sit strong flavours and clever blends, including the Rose & Shine, a delicate mix of Ketel One vodka, Belsazar rose vermouth, Peychaud bitters and prosecco, as well as the Cotton-Hopper, with Calle 23 blanco tequila, matcha tea, branca menta, cream and gomme.

A dimly lit bar in candlelight with a selection of bottles and glasses
Photograph: Arcane

4. Arcane

Small but not stuffy, this basement hideaway opened in 2016 and has become a stalwart of the Manchester cocktail scene whilst somehow managing to retain its air of secrecy. Cocktails are imaginative (anyone for an Elephant Love Medley?) and the setting - it's in the beautiful Victorian Queen's Chambers building - really add to the atmosphere.

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5. Alchemist Spinningfields

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars

When the original branch in Spinningfields was launched back in 2010, it was immediately clear The Alchemist was to become Manchester’s ultimate molecular heaven, winning hearts with both its intriguing drinks selection and a slick old-meets-new aesthetic. And so it proved, with the Alchemist still offering a distinctive, properly thrilling approach to mixology.

Cane & Grain, Northern Quarter, Manchester
Carl Sukonik

6. Cane & Grain

Restaurants American

Homing in on ribs, rum, beer and bourbon, Cane & Grain’s offering is specialised but not too narrow. Each of its three floors assumes an entirely different persona, with the ground floor ‘Rib Joint and Tap Room’ a nod to the building’s former life as a skateboard shop, and acting as the primary, laid-back boozer for the masses. 

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7. The Pen and Pencil

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars

Its exposed-brick shell filled with beautiful tan leather stools and classic copper barware, the interior of the Pen and Pencil is slick, inviting and made only better by a set of sociable benches in the middle of the main room. Along with an impressive bar team serving up twists on classics and house specials, you’ll find breakfast staples and, in the evening, plenty of American mixes that nod towards the show that inspired the bar.

8. The Liars Club

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars

Manchester doesn’t do badly for tiki bars but The Liars Club must be the best. So much more than just a Zombie and Mai Tai haven, The Liars Club serves 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 pina coladas slurped from a hollowed-out pineapples and drinks served in novelty steins, barrels and volcanoes.

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9. Cloud 23

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars

Beetham Tower is an imposing landmark and its location on the site of Manchester’s old Roman fort means that all roads into the city seem to head straight for it. From traditional favourites to complex creations with dry ice wafting out of them, the drinks do not disappoint, and there’s a fine selection of wines and beers, too.

10. Velvet

Bars and pubs Hotel bars


Set within the heart of Manchester’s main gay village, Velvet is a boutique hotel, restaurant and bar that adds a touch of class to the revelry of Canal Street. As one of the few proper cocktails joints in the Village, Velvet has become a forerunner in luxurious drinking and canal-side dining.

And if it’s top-notch food you’re after?

The 24 best restaurants in Manchester

Restaurants

Over the past few years this city’s food scene has flourished: trailblazing indie restaurants have opened across the city, under-the-radar local favourites have been celebrated by national restaurant critics and world-famous chefs are setting up flashy new ventures.

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