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Apotheca, Northern Quarter, Reviewed

Niamh Spence sees if cocktails can cure all in a NQ favourite

Written by . Published on May 1st 2014.

Apotheca, Northern Quarter, Reviewed

WHEN we celebrate, we drink. When we commiserate, we drink. I’ve long been an advocate for cocktails, or any form of alcohol for that matter, as the cure of all life’s ailments. Bad day? Drown it out. (As stated in Dr Niamh's Spence's Selfhelp Guide To A Full Life For Livers. Ed)

Their new menu contains a wide and varied list of ingredients including; bacon, wasabi peas, Fizz Whiz popping candy, pink wafers, bourbon biscuits and last but not least '#selfies'

Apotheca in the Northern Quarter is a bar that shares this view.

Their medicinal theme stretches from their old Greek name (Apotheca meaning 'one who prepares and sells drugs or compounds for medicinal purposes', as cited on the bar's website) to the walls of their interior. Wooden cabinets and chests grace the bar and surroundings lest you forget that alcohol is the best medicine.

Apotheca InteriorApotheca likes to fit as much as it can into one room

Apotheca, like most bars in the Northern Quarter, is determined to fit a lot into a small space. Benches along the wall, fairy lights, a smatter of small tables, towering wooden chests, a large bar home to eight battling bar staff, hen parties, customers and a DJ in the corner. It’s a lot to fit into one room. Oh, and there’s the hireable event space with a bar in the basement too.

This ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’ attitude combined with ‘anything is possible’ mentality doesn’t just apply to fitting everything they can into one room. The Apotheca cocktail menu is an encyclopedia of drinks combining the classics, the crowd pleasers and their own creations to appease every customer going. Their new menu contains a wide and varied list of ingredients including; bacon, wasabi peas, Fizz Whiz popping candy, pink wafers, bourbon biscuits and last but not least '#selfies'. Well after all, Manchester is the selfie capital of Europe...(see here).

Apothecary's Chest CopyApotheca's chestWhilst a selection of choice is not a bad thing it can be a major hinderance for service. Groups of people clogging up the bar whilst trying to decide whether to sample that whisky cocktail or the gin one with the bizarre garnish can mean those stood behind them end up infuriated as well as dehydrated. Lucky that Apotheca have a large team of bar staff rather than just one or two 'mixologists' (a hated term in the Confidential office) to ensure service is quick, efficient and nobody is stuck muttering "I only wanted a pint". 

With quick and efficient functionality comes muted personality and if it's a cheeky barman who will flirt with witty quips that you want, then Apotheca is not for you. The staff seem solely focused on serving customers and remembering as much of the extensive menu off by heart. With 54 cocktails to know and an extensive list of ingredients, they can be forgiven for having little chatter.

The drinks themselves (main picture) were polar opposites. An example of the varied choice Apotheca offers for all. The Cherry Bomb (£7.50) from the 'delightful' section of the menu was a throwback to childhood sweets complete with Fizz Whizz popping candy garnish. The perfect choice for an avid pink drink fan like myself and a nice wave of nostalgia. The second drink, El Matador Old Fashioned (£8), comes from the first page of the menu entitled 'twisted classics and Apotheca originals'. A Spanish take on the classic bourbon favourite, it's hard-hitting and leaves a lingering citrus flavour. "It's like rocket fuel," my drinking partner said as he went in for a second swig.

Round TwoRound two: Honey and Fig Caipirinha and Keep On Walkin'

A caipirinha is the perfect drink for when the weather starts to get warm and we all get wistful thinking of sunny days. Apotheca's sweet honey and fig concoction (£7.50) was a tad heavy on the lime juice but an otherwise refreshing drink. Over too quick though, as within three slugs it was gone and a dishevelled bit of fig was all that was left staring back.

The Keep On Walkin' (£7.50) mixes ginger, lemon, ginger beer, Drambuie and Johnny Walker Black Label. It's good. So good in fact that I barely got a look in as my partner drank every last drop. Slurping the last bit through his straw.

The bar was almost full to capacity by the time we left at 11pm. Full but not annoyingly so. Nobody was jostling at the bar or spilling their drink down other peoples backs and everyone seemed to be happily nodding along to that familiar indie soundtrack that so many bars along Thomas Street have.

As we leave, the doormen ask if we've had a good night. A nice touch as many just mentally note how many leaving and how many pushing through the doors. "We're the friendliest doormen in Manchester," smiles the left burly bouncer in black.

"That's what it says on TripAdvisor anyways," jokes back the other. "Everyone who writes a review always comments on us."

Friendly doormen, quick and efficient bar staff and a wealth of cocktails to please even the pickiest of drinkers is what has kept Apotheca in business since it opened in 2008.

With such a long list it's worth a repeat visit. All for medicinal purposes, of course.

Friendliest Doormen In ManchesterFriendliest Doormen In Manchester

Follow Niamh Spence at @missnspence

Apotheca: 17 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1FS

Telephone: 0161 834 9411

Opening hours: Sun-Wed 12pm-12:30am, Thurs-Sat 12pm-2am

Find them on Twitter at: @apothecabar


Rating: 15/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Drinks: 4/5 Something for everyone here
Concept: 3.5/5 Cocktails cure all
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

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