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Northern Quarter cocktail fiesta

Thea Euryphaessa pits a party in a glass against a carnival in a glass

Written by . Published on January 14th 2009.

Northern Quarter cocktail fiesta

Cocktails have personalities.

If I’m in a brooding, melancholic mood I nurse a perfect Manhattan in a quiet bar. Big comfy chair, newspaper, that kind of thing. If my outlook is decidedly sunny, it’s got to be a lip-smackingly refreshing Lynchburg lemonade. If I’m in the mood to party, it’s margaritas all the way. You can’t have that kind of fun with beer or even wine. But cocktails are social creatures. They’re playful. Flirtatious even. But they can be an intimidating bunch. Many are frightened to death of them. Blokes are afraid of ordering them in case they look like sissies. Others just don’t know where to start. But cocktails are on the rise and we Mancunians seem to be taking them increasingly seriously.

Last weekend I was in the mood for partying. As mentioned earlier, there’s only one cocktail for this – margarita – party in a glass. Made with tequila, triple sec or Cointreau, fresh lemon or lime juice and salt for the rim of the glass (optional), this is one of my favourites.

I also had a guest reviewer along for the ride. Regulars at the Friends & Family night presently located at the Mint Lounge will be familiar with their MC, Kwasi Asante. Kwasi and I take margaritas seriously: so seriously, we convened a summit in Bluu bar two years ago to discuss the state of margaritas in Manchester. The verdict was that they were bobbins. Bartenders were tight-fisted with the size of their drinks, rarely treating this cocktail with respect. We went forth to see if things had improved.

But I should have known better inviting Kwasi. Not satisfied reviewing one drink, we invited along one of its cousins, caipirinha (keye-pi-rin-ya) – carnival in a glass. A simple drink made with muddled limes, sugar (brown or white) and Cachaça, this is the one to ask for if you’re a mojito drinking (yawn) creature of habit. In fact, if you are of the mojito persuasion, do yourself a favour in 2009 and Move On. The mojito may be the most popular cocktail in the world, but there are many other delicious drinks out there.

We kicked the evening off in Pau Brasil. I love this bar/restaurant. Consistently good, it offers one of the tastiest cocktail menus in the city and is a longstanding favourite. Ask a member of staff for their drink of choice and see what they create: chances are it will be off menu. As usual their caipirinhas were top drawer. Cracking atmosphere too. (£6).

Afterwards, we skipped over to Tropeiro. We’d heard good things about their drinks. Their caipirinha would have been good if the glass it was served in wasn’t warm. Rumblings aside, the venue seems more oriented to eating and not so conducive to solely enjoying the carnivalesque likes of caipirinha. (£6)

Next door in Tribeca, we turned our attention to margaritas. The atmosphere on a Friday night complimented this drink, but unfortunately the cocktail itself fell short: more l’eau de cardboard with a distinctly dust-like aftertaste. We struggled to finish them. (£6).

Finally we headed for Socio Rehab. I’ve never visited on a Friday night, preferring to slink in and out unnoticed midweek. But I’d had reports about Big Tom. Other bartenders speak highly of him. My curiosity got the better of me.

When we arrived, Tom was razing the joint to the ground. When he stepped through his ring of fire and introduced himself I thought I’d come face to face with Nataraja – Lord of Dance: I’ve never known arms flail so wildly while dancing and mixing drinks.

As mentioned earlier, drinks have moods and on this occasion Tom whipped up a high spirited frenzy with the aid of a superb DJ. Both his caipirinha and margarita were mouth-wateringly delicious and beautifully balanced. The atmosphere on the night perfectly encapsulated the essence of both drinks. His margarita beat Tribeca’s hands down. (£6/£6).

But as for who serves the best caipirinha in the Northern Quarter? I reckon there’s only one way to settle it: a Sharks (Pau Brasil) versus Jets (Socio Rehab) dance-off in Piccadilly Gardens. Now that’s a cocktailing mambo I’d want front row tickets for.

The breakdown:

Venue: Pau Brasil Bar & Restaurant, 58 Lever Street, Manchester, M1 1FJ. T: 0161 923 6888
Cocktail: Caipirinha: (Flavour 5/5, Presentation 5/5, Flair 5/5, Ambience 5/5) Total 20/20

Venue: Tropeiro, 46 Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3WF. T: 0161 923 6846
Cocktail: Caipirinha: (Flavour 4/5, Presentation 4/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 2/5) Total 13/20

Venue: Tribeca, 50 Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3WF. T: 0161 236 8300
Cocktail: Margarita: (Flavour 2/5, Presentation 3/5, Flair 2/5, Ambience 4/5) Total 11/20

Venue: Socio Rehab, 100-102 High Street, Manchester, M4 1HQ. T: 0161 832 4529
Cocktail: Margarita: (Flavour 5/5, Presentation 5/5, Flair 5/5, Ambience 5/5) Total 20/20
Cocktail: Caipirinha: (Flavour 5/5, Presentation 5/5, Flair 5/5, Ambience5 /5) Total 20/20

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

c28January 14th 2009.

Tom is wonderful. He is also my pal, and i pleased he is getting some well-deserved credit

mark mJanuary 14th 2009.

So NOW you belive me about big tom thea??!!! Last time i went he was flamethrowing the floater shots in my zombie. awesome

AvoJanuary 14th 2009.

Was Tom wearing that cap that makes him look like a member of the Village People whilst mixing your drinks?

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2009.

Louise at Manchester235 is abaolustely amazing. I go there every night and sit at the bar gazing at her stirring Old Fashioned's all night long.

monkeyJanuary 14th 2009.

He was the founder and lead of Pop da Funk in his hey day I believe! I happen too to be a big fan of Socio and Pau. Pau for a feast and socio for the disco cocktails after...mmmm

Old newsJanuary 14th 2009.

Sukh, Rodeo's gone it's Keko Muko or something now with a Tahitian look, still does the cocktails though.

mark mJanuary 14th 2009.

You right about Pau too Thea. Love your articles about cocktails. Keep em coming

TownsTooSmallJanuary 14th 2009.

mmm a feedup in Pau and a cocktail party at socio - sounds like a good night! Not sure if the meat would have come up though drinking one of Tribecas cocktails! Surprised Tropeiro scored so low - but reading back think your scores were probably bob on - high on flavour but a little lack lustre and the ambience can really let the place down - doesn't feel like it fills the space well enough - pau has a much more buzzing ambience. I've been going to Socio for years - have seen the bar team come and go - some great characters there - hands down best cocktail bar in Manchester - the guys are proper professionals and the place has a sort magic you cant put your finger on. Will be back soon to check out BigToms latest head garb!

Thea EuryphaessaJanuary 14th 2009.

On this occasion, the two drinks Tom mixed couldn't be faulted. And believe me, I tried. Neither could the caipirinha my barkeep at Pau Brasil mixed. Whether that standard can be maintained by all staff at all times, remains to be seen...

TheHatPoliceJanuary 14th 2009.

There were reports that Big Tom was drinking in Walrus wearing a large over sized Beanie on Friday night.

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2009.

The best bartender in Manchester is Louise at 235 - her cocktails are a work of art and she is gorgeous to boot - I am not biased by the fact that she is my daughter!

JDJanuary 14th 2009.

Thea - at Socio you should have tried the Lickety Split or the Coconut Grove Mojito - it may have refreshed your love for the ubiquitous Mojito!

TOMTOMJanuary 14th 2009.

great article - reflects the fun and energy it sounds like you had that night! - I have experienced the places you mention and reckon you have it spot on! All the guys at socio rock - service energy and personality - and the drinks are out of this world! Is Tom the big loud one? I'm sure he actually used to be in a dance troop - hence the moves - his dance name was Genesis!

AvoJanuary 14th 2009.

Get on Facebook and he's been tagged wearing some very flamboyant headwear recently. Not been in Socio for a long time. Think this article will prompt me to visit at the weekend.

Cocktail SuckerJanuary 14th 2009.

how can you even compare the drinks at socio rehab to pau brasil??? at pau they just knock them out with no care or skill - socio cocktails are a work of art - nowhere in manchester comes close IMO

daz alkringtonJanuary 14th 2009.

thea's well fit! have you seen the photo of her on facebook?! google her!! lovin her cocktail articles. keep em coming.

c28January 14th 2009.

Let's try again.... Tom is wonderful. He is also my pal, and i'm pleased he is getting some well-deserved credit

MOJITOSAREWANKJanuary 14th 2009.

Thank You Thea for speaking out against the continued and unwarranted popularity of the Mojito, you are the friend of bartenders everywhere. GET OVER IT, IT WAS COOL FIVE YEARS AGO!Also, see past Tom's pyrotechnics, he can actually make decent drinks and posesses good knowledgeunlike alot of people in this city who have the gall to call themselves bartenders. However, although Socio remains a bastion of decent drinks when quality in the rest of the city is lacklustre a 20/20 rating I personally feel is rather favourable.

sukhJanuary 14th 2009.

If you were going to try margaritas you should have gone to Rodeo. Pretty consistent and when they are good they are very good! The recipe suggested in the article is a very poor relation of an exquisite margarita. Rodeo know that agave syrup is essential and so should Thea. Try the following recipe it is a bit complicated but produces the most deliciously balanced sweet, sour, salty and tangy cocktail ever created: 2 shots Tequila (100% pure agave) 1/2 shot grand marnier (better than cointreau) 1/2 shot agave syrup, 1/2 shot limoncello, 1/2 shot lime juice and 1/2 shot lemon juice and a pinch of salt, shake with lots of ice and enjoy again and again. Believe me they are addictive! All credit to Hodgeslag.org. Despite this minor margarita blip I hope Thea keeps up this informative guide to cocktails in Manchester.

99January 14th 2009.

Oh My God - Big Tom - Pop Da Funk!!! - i remember seeing them at the Notting Hill Carnival - Tom and his brother David had a dance off - Tom ended up busting a running man in a ring of fire! - Guess he's transferred his talents to the bar. Anyone know what happened to David? Last i heard he was part of a Genesis tribute band in Edinburgh!

Anal-RetentiveJanuary 14th 2009.

Sukh, the official recipe of a margarita according to the International Bartender Association can be found here: http://iba-world.net/english/cocktails/margar.php Thea's recipe is the original and absolutely correct.

rosieJanuary 14th 2009.

ermmmm...have just looked at said facebook photos and have to concede that Avo is bang on.Damn it.

JDJanuary 14th 2009.

Thea - at Socio you should have tried the Lickety Split or the Coconut Grove Mojito - it may have refreshed your love for the ubiquitous Mojito!

rosieJanuary 14th 2009.

Big Tom is the god of cocktails.I want to marry him and have him make me disco daiquiris for ever and ever.Nothing to do with him being quite fit.Honest.

rosieJanuary 14th 2009.

Avo,how jolly dare you.Although I haven't seen the cap,I'm fairly sure that such a thing would be impossible.

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2009.

This is your daughter? Wowzers!I am a big big fan of both Pau Brazil and Socio, as mentioned the atmosphere at both these venues is the icing on top of the gastronomical and alcoholic metaphoric cake...

Big Tom SocioJanuary 14th 2009.

Much Love all!!kind words, we hope socio is going in the right direction, it seems like people enjoy coming to our place, seeing what we do, and enjoyment is infectious, we ****ing love it so you must too!! now..... the hat was a mistake, i can see that now, but ****, we were all young once!!the dance troup was a happy time in my life, and my dance name wasn't genesis it was sussudio.good timesnow **** off

sukhJanuary 14th 2009.

I don't doubt that Thea quoted the original or correct recipe. Try the two recipes in a taste test and you will discover which you prefer. In my opinion the one above is far superior in terms of depth, flavour and complexity. See what you think.

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