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Harvey Nichols: Elegantly Wasted

Thea Euryphaessa starts a mission in search of Manchester’s beautiful cocktails and drinks at Harvey Nichols

Written by . Published on September 4th 2008.


Harvey Nichols: Elegantly Wasted

I love cocktails. Not in a poncy, drink and be seen way, but as a connoisseur appreciates wine.

I enquired about Caipirinhas. I wanted to know the difference between using white and brown sugar. I’d heard conflicting reports. Matt rustled up one of each for me to try and white sugar won hands down. This was a respectable Caipirinha to rival Pau Brasil’s.

So while bemoaning a medicinal tasting Caipirinha followed by a piss-poor Margarita, the Editor decided it was time for me to satisfy my lust and investigate Manchester’s offerings. Because at an average of £7.50, they ain’t cheap. And I’m tired of throwing good money after bad drinks.

Many establishments have got ahead of themselves offering contemporary cocktails when they can’t even get the classics right. Others are plain sloppy, substituting syrup mixes and concentrates for fresh juice; short-cutting key ingredients; halving measures and using poor quality spirits, because the punters won’t know once it’s all mixed together. Oh yes we will (check out my cocktail experiences at the recent Bolton Food and Drink festival here).

Anyway in an attempt to get back to basics, I attended the Cocktail Master Class at Harvey Nichols. I quaffed back my hangover with a polite welcome Bellini. Nothing like a champagne cocktail to break the ice.

Lined up at the bar, we were split into two groups. I was with Matt Fairhurst, Bar Manager and Master Class tutor. And new best friend. The theme, Latin cocktails. To begin, he took us through two rum laced classics: the Daiquiri and Mojito.

Summer Martini

Ah, rum. Ambrosial nectar. A sugarcane based spirit. The sugarcane is boiled down to a rich molasses, fermented and distilled. Warm, mellow, slinky, rum reminds the palate of balmier, tropical climes.

After a brief anecdotal history we got straight down to business: sampling. We then prepared a Daiquiri. I forgot how simple this cocktail is. Not the garish, syrupy, eighties kitsch we’ve wrongly grown accustomed to. This is a new favourite: Harvey Nick’s Second Floor Daiquiri (£8.50). Mount Gay Extra Old rum shaken with freshly squeezed lime juice and sugar. A sophisticated drink to sink yourself into.


Mint Julio Bellini

Next up, the Hemingway Daiquiri. A double Daiquiri without the sugar. Hemingway was diabetic. And hardcore. Apparently, he started his day with one of these. A drinking statement met with a row of increasingly glassy eyed smiles, that turned slightly red after this potent libation.

Buoyed by the previous concoction, I enquired about Caipirinhas. I wanted to know the difference between using white and brown sugar. I’d heard conflicting reports. Matt rustled up one of each for me to try and white sugar won hands down. This was a respectable Caipirinha to rival Pau Brasil’s on Lever Street.

Impressed, I threw a further gauntlet down. I challenged him to a Margarita to match those I’d grown accustomed to while in New Mexico. He said he’d make the best I’d ever tasted. A Mexican standoff ensued. Too sour I said. Perfect, he disagreed. Customer always knows best surely and the River Bar and Restaurant across the water at the Lowry Hotel offer a more authentic version.

With an eye to the following day, the conversation turned to hangover cures. Disenchanted with substandard Bloody Marys, I mentioned I’d come across the Breakfast Martini in a book by famed mixologist, Ben Reed.

It transpired Matt had trained with Ben. Enthused, he rustled one up. I did a double take as he added a dollop of marmalade to the mix and declared it an ingenious drink - confident lad, Matt. It came with dry toast to dunk. Breakfast in a glass. He was right. Bloody ingenious. But not strictly a morning after drink.

For that, it seems there’s a cocktail to scorch through the foggiest of hangovers: The Corpse Reviver. And there are three versions of it. Responsible drinking? I’ve never looked forward to a hangover so much.

A couple of hours later the merrymaking ended. But all that drinking can leave a girl hungry. Unfortunately I’d opted out of the accompanying lunch. Perhaps I shouldn’t have. Alison Seagrave’s kitchen is rumoured to be excellent.

Of the cocktails available across the city, Harvey Nichols provides some fine ones. They use high end ingredients and get the basics right. My only qualm would be the surroundings, that don’t lend themselves to an afternoon of loitering. It’s a touch stark. I prefer my cocktails served in a more seductive ambience. That comes right in the evening , I’m told, when it’s much more alluring. Still, even in the bright afternoon I would be tempted to drop by for a cheeky one. Or two.

By the way the next Master Class takes place on Saturday 13 September at 11.15am. £25 for the Cocktail Master Class. £40, including the two course lunch. Spaces are limited, so be warned.

Rating: 17.5/20
Breakdown: 5/5 Presentation
5/5 Flavour
4.5/5 Flair
3/5 Ambience
Address: Harvey Nichols
21 New Cathedral St
Manchester
M1 1AD
0161 828 8888

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

coktailsruleSeptember 4th 2008.

I've been on one of these master classes at harvey nicks and I have to say they are amazing! The guys know their stuff and make it a real fun time - glad i DID go for the lunch tho... needed to soak up the excellent booze!

Simon TurnerSeptember 4th 2008.

Cocktails - alcopops for posers.

JennySeptember 4th 2008.

Avo what a great idea. The new Yang Sing bar is good, looks the part too, but I might leave the rickshaws for a bit looking at the weather.

Graham the GodSeptember 4th 2008.

I swear by the g&t at the Radisson. Lovely.

mark mSeptember 4th 2008.

watermelon martinis been around for years. so yesterday's drink!!

mark mSeptember 4th 2008.

dirty martinis are the devil's work!!

AvoSeptember 4th 2008.

Chris, I agree Obsidian does great cocktails and their pouring rum (Appleton VX) is my favourite but I really don't rate the cocktails at Cloud 23. I know Frankie who runs the bar has a wicked pedigree but I'm unsure as to some of the specs of the cocktails as the majority of them taste really wishy washy. I suppose its all down to personal taste though.

AvoSeptember 4th 2008.

Cloud 23 - where they attempt to pass off a minty, diluted cordial with ice as a Mojito.Went to the Champagne Bar at the Yang Sing Hotel recently and had a wicked Mai Tai made by a very friendly bar tender. Give it a try. One of the doormen might give you a spin on one of the rickshaws they have outside...

ClababreseSupporterSeptember 4th 2008.

Please be aware that the Breakfast Martini is a creation of the great Salvatore Calabrese, invented whilst at the Library Bar, Lanesborough Hotel (now of Fifty, St James) and NOT of Ben Reed, who is a great bartender in his own right but not the creator of this particular drink.

AlboSeptember 4th 2008.

The city centre is in the doldrums when it come to a decent drink. If you want well made cocktails get to Mtwenty in West Didsbury. The new menu is superb!!!

Michael GSeptember 4th 2008.

Yea we need more stuff about cocktails because most people get totally ripped off all over the place around town. Do Cloud 23 next time, like to see what you think.

mark mSeptember 4th 2008.

and then, down it in one and ask for another. repeat until u get crap drinks.

JennyPennySeptember 4th 2008.

For cocktails Mojo is fab - I can't recommend it enough. They specialise in rum as a main spirit and the bar staff really know what they're talking about!

ChrisSeptember 4th 2008.

Manchester 235 does good cocktails, as does Obsidian.

AvoSeptember 4th 2008.

Nice one Ed! Its good to see you're earning your keep. Those nibbles they serve with the drinks are outstanding too. Especially those garlicy crispy things...

AvoSeptember 4th 2008.

According to The Guardian, the next big thing in cocktails is the Watermelon Martini because it was served at Madonna's 50th!

Simon TurnerSeptember 4th 2008.

Cocktails - alcopops for posers.

ChrisSeptember 4th 2008.

Avo: I didn't mean Cloud 23, I meant the Manchester 235 casino.Simon: that really depends what cocktails you are drinking. I hate fruity ones for example, I like to be able to taste the copious amounts of alcohol in my drinks, so my personal favourite is the 'old-fashioned'- not for the faint hearted as it is essentially a lot of whisky with crushed orange zest and ice as a mixer.

Jonathan SchofieldSeptember 4th 2008.

Avo and Jenny, we've got a general review of Oku Bar at Yang sing Oriental going up on Tuesday. We like the place a lot.

AvoSeptember 4th 2008.

Suppose so. Gimme a Dirty Martini anyday.

AvoSeptember 4th 2008.

If you want to really piss off a bartender just order an Old Fashioned on a busy Saturday night!

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