Start as you mean to go on. This was my mantra for this year’s boozy adventures, and indeed 2013 so far had been nothing short of a great boon. So far I’ve revisited old friends and charted new territory, and have a whole host of things to tell you about — from mid-week champers, weekend Gerwürtz, and the finest Old Fashioned this side of Mad Men.
Let’s open with an absolute cracker with the wine bar, Bakerie. Almost too cool for its own good, the vast floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall cellar hosts central Manchester’s most extensive and intriguing vino selection. It is a shop in which you buy your wine, pay a small cork charge then take a pew in this new breed of Northern Quarter joint, which admittedly crosses the yuppie line. But for all the criticisms of pretension, fad and hipsterness of the NQ, if they do what they do well, enjoy it. However, what will have me going back is the cocktails.
Cocktails are great. Sophisticated, delicious, complex, and offer a little of that suaveness reminiscent of messers Draper and Sterling. A top cocktail does positively affect the way you feel about yourself — the cut glass tumbler delicately resting in your hand, a seemingly aloof sip, but then a deep pause of reflection as the flavours explore every last one of your taste buds. Embrace it.
The Knob Creek Old Fashioned from the Bakerie is literally a game changer. Never have I enjoyed that blend of bourbon, orange, sugar and bitters more. The secret was in the opportunity to choose your bourbon instead of being lumped with an inferior house blend. The Bakerie offers a choice of premium whiskey, and Knob Creek is as smooth and creamy as I don’t know what. It is also cheaper than the less good Alchemist smoked version of this Appalachian classic.
A large part of this year has been very cold and very windy and indeed a long way from summer. I thought trying to discover the wonders of Champagne would be a suitable remedy for such blues, and indeed it was. In fact, being a student, popping a cork on a Tuesday evening is a most bizarre, exhilarating and ridiculous notion: I strongly recommend it. I punted for a non-bank breaking introduction into France’s finest fizzy export. In fact it scores significantly higher than Moët & Chandon for me. Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noir Champagne at £20 did the business, oh boy it did the business. The excitement of twisting the bottle and releasing the cork, the pop, the fizz. The golden nectar was full of nutty and toasty notes with a really creamy texture. Much revelry was had sipping this aperitif, though it would have soared with some seafood canapés.
How long have I been decidedly lost in a world of mid-priced pinto grigio, orvieto, sauvignon blanc? Too long. Yes, all these grapes can be delicious; in truth I love orvieto and a Marlborough Sav Blanc is the most standard of bottles. However, everything changed when I discovered the Château St Michelle Dry Riesling and Gewürztraminer (available at Carringtons, West Didsbury). These wines are as good as white can get because they are simply exciting. When bottled, the yeast is still active and thus the wine takes on a slight spritz character, which is a taste bud sensation. A warm, slightly spicy and toasty comfort is delivered in buckets and the aromatic qualities are unrivalled. The £7 Sainsburys Gewürz is a nice introduction to this new ‘go to’ white.
If you are hungering for a pint, however, pack up at the library at 5pm and head straight to the Salutation behind the RNCM. It is the best pub in the University vicinity; it actually lives up to the often misused “purveyor of fine ale and beer”, and is delightfully charming. With either ales on pump or imported bottles, the selection is seductive.
This year so far has been marvellous, it really has. As exams and coursework deadline approach please take time to celebrate with some quality over quantity, something wonderful, something absolutely smashing.
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