Cloud 23: Cocktails in the City

The very first time that I came to Manchester, the Hilton hotel was the first thing that I saw. I didn’t know what it was then, to us it was just a weirdly shaped building that looked as if it was about to topple over, but now it has become my favourite thing to see after a long train journey. It signifies being close to home.

It is one of those places that I have always walked past, felt obliged to look up at, and just sigh. It is somewhere that I just assumed that I’d probably never be “high-up” enough to be invited to, or have enough spare money to be able to stay at; so when the absolutely lovely Jessica (ohsogawjess) invited me along to a cocktail event at the Cloud 23 bar, my jaw dropped a little and I immediately said yes.

Myself, Jessica, Anastasia and Jen met beforehand and went as a group, all of which hadn’t ever been before. This was probably giggle-worthily obvious when we stepped out of the elevator on floor 23 and went ‘Oh! Wow!’.
We were greeted by a lovely man that guided us to choose any table as the first drink was on them, and allowed us to get comfortable with our surroundings, and of course take a few photographs of the (miserable weather) view.

After previously conversing about not actually having a clue why were we were there and what we were supposed to do, the man that greeted us finally enlightened us.
Around the bar were (if I remember correctly) nine different cocktail bars based in Manchester. The aim of the night was like a cocktail tasting musical chairs – when the music played you had to change tables/”bars”, and they had ten minutes to tell you about their cocktail, brand, and what you can expect from them. A game which includes the best cocktail bars in Manchester? It sounded perfect to me!

We began by sitting at a table hosted by the lovely Andy Pope. This guy had tonnes of personality and gave us all a good giggle, and I think I can speak for us all by saying that we’re super glad that we chose to go to him first. He provided us with this little beauty…

Hands up, I was skeptical. I saw him putting egg whites in and also saw the marmalade jar on the side, and instantly thought ‘nahhh, not a fan’. But after trying it, I can definitely say that I’m a somewhat a fan!
Andy's theme for this years CITC is movies - and this one is 'The Breakfast Club' - ingredients including marmalade, gin, lemon juice, orange liqueur and egg white (which actually just makes it really fluffy!). The drink was sharp and citrus-y, and super tasty. The toast was definitely more a novelty than consumable (pass the butter, please!), but it overall made a fun experience.
Fun fact: When I told my Mum about this cocktail, she thought that by 'on toast' they actually poured the cocktail onto the toast, hahaha. I wondered why she sounded so confused!

Next up was The Alchemist. I am a huge fan of The Alchemist, their drinks never fail to blow my mind a little bit!
They have teamed up with Gentleman Jack - a whiskey that makes Jack Daniels more mellow and inviting to the lesser whiskey fans (*puts my own hand up*) - and basically, what they do is drop the whiskey into charcoal which removes all of the harsh flavours - strange, huh?

So, firstly, I am shocked to say that I was actually able to drink it! I am not a whiskey fan in the slightest, so this definitely came as a surprise. To make it non-whiskey-fan-friendly they added the following: maple syrup (to make it more mellow), grapefruit liqueur (brings out fruity notes), aromatic bitters, grenadine (for sweetness and colour), orange (for freshness); and finally peppercorn was added prior to using the smoke gun - this accentuates the smell. As you can see, it's more of a potion or a science experiment than a simple cocktail - but it's definitely what makes this bar what it is.

Fitzgerald is a bar that I have actually never heard of, but is based in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, This cocktail was strong. Strong to the point where I had to try my hardest not to do the typical shot face that is a mix between the tangfastic advert and a baby sucking a lemon - you know it. Not surprisingly, it is 100% alcohol, and one cocktail is 1.5 units! That's aallaaht of alcohol in one cocktail.

This cocktail is named Smoke French Manhattan and consists of Woodford  reserve bourbon (not the chocolate biscuits unfortunately), cherry syrup and vermouth. If you are a fan of strong, strong cocktails - then this is the one for you!

I don't even know how I'm supposed to put this next experience into words. Bare in mind, things were a little hazy by this point anyway, but this experience was next level.
Greeted by a man in a mask, he proceeded to check all of our palms - not even telling us why, but apparently it was something to do with the heart, and I have lots of them. Hearts? Palms? Who knows. I was confused. And that was just the beginning.
So, the bar here was Elixir. I have seen this bar before but never actually been inside. I feel as if now, I must go. I want to know if the whole bar is as bizarre as those ten minutes that I experienced. So after being told that I have lots of whatever anonymity that I have lots of, it became evident that these guys were out to provide a full overall experience (which they won an award for last year! Probably because they confused the judges so much they felt they had to - nah, joking, well deserved!).

With ingredients such as 'liquid mercury' (representing lunar and female energy), 'red sulphur' (represents male energy), 'distilled morning dew' and 'the philosophers stone' (I know, I know), you knew something bizarre was going to come out of it. That smokey cocktail above? That wasn't the cocktail at all. You want to see what was the cocktail?....
I am still confused. But it was definitely my favourite of the night. It was sweet, with just a hint of a kick of alcohol. I loved it so much I took the egg with me in order to finish it.

Hawksmoor were next. Funnily enough I walked straight past this bar on my way to Cloud 23, but only noticed it on my way home after finding out about it! Isn't it strange how you can just be completely oblivious to something until you're made aware of it? And then you wonder how you never noticed it before!
So, Hawksmoor allowed us to sample two of their cocktails - Mai Tai and Banana.
I didn't actually manage to get many photos of this (due to having to run as I was bursting at the bladder). Mai Tai - the one shown above - consisted of rum, almond syrup, lime and orange liqueur. I personally wasn't a fan of this one, I found it very tangy and overly sharp. The banana contained fresh banana, a herbal spirit and appleton estate rum. After a single sip I exclaimed 'it tastes like plant!' - at this point I didn't even know about the herbal spirits, but it was extremely prominent in the taste.

All Star Lanes were another bar that I am familiar with - as are artists like Rihanna and Drake who have hired the whole venue out whilst being in Manchester on tour.
This was another favourite of the night,and shockingly included JD which I usually hate! The cocktail which they provided us was called 'Oh Sweet Jack', and included ingredients: Jack Daniels, peanut butter, fresh banana, agave syrup (which is like honey), chocolate ice-cream and milk. It was almost like a nutella milkshake! I never used to like cocktails like this, but this and the Black Jack I had back at The Milton Club, have completely changed my mind. It's definitely made me wide my horizons when looking at cocktail menus!

Lucha Libre next up and (supposed to be) our final stop. One ingredient I step FAR away from when ordering cocktails is tequila. I despise it. It is foul. Lucha Libre have made it their mission to break down and change the perception of tequila for people like myself. So, up came 'Skippy's Caribbean Cooler', a cocktail that I was very hesitant to try.

I actually couldn't believe that I like this cocktail! Especially as it had so many things in it that would have made me steer well, well away from ever ordering it in a bar. Ingredients included: Hereadua bianco tequila, watermelon, coconut, lime juice and peach. I'm still shocked, reliving the ingredients, that I actually liked it! And even finished off the full cocktail that was there for show. So, tequila haters, I got news for you, drinking tequila and enjoying it is actually possible! (Just don't get over excited and accept the tequila shot that they offer... that much is still pretty gross).

Last, but definitely not least, the bar themselves, Cloud 23.We couldn't miss this one, purely because they had balloons attached to them. Yep, balloons.

I'm going to be 100% honest with you here. I have no recollection of what this cocktail tasted like. I do remember that I liked it though. Ingredients for this were: Tanqueray no. ten, abricot liqueur, raspberry french liqueuer, lemon, apple juice, homemade rhubarb syrup, plum bitter and egg white. And once the drink was poured, the bar man lit the bottom of the balloon string with a lighter, and the balloon flew up into the air and popped! Which gives this little cocktail the very apt name of 'Up, up and away' :)

After all of that excitement, it was time to go home. Not till after I got some night shots of my favourite city though...

Aren't city lights just the best? *heart eyes emoji*

If you enjoyed this post and would like to try out all of these cocktails and more, then head to Cocktails in the City on the 14th & 15th May in Manchester! It is £10 entry, and that £10 gives you 1 token for a drink at any bar. To buy extra tokens is £6 each, which compared to the price of the cocktails in the bar, is pretty good! There are also chances to win lots of prizes, and it's an evening event too, so a perfect way to kick off a great night. Find out more on their website!
The events are being held in Manchester, Leeds, London and Edinburgh, so coming up to Manchester isn't necessary! (Although hugely recommended ;))

Big thank you to Jess for inviting me and of course to Cloud 23 for welcoming us all along - it really was an amazing experience :)

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