Labelled 'One To Watch' by Top 50 Cocktail Bars and winner of 'Best New Bar' at the Manchester Bar Awards, Project Halcyon Distillery is making racking up accolades look easy. Would these guys knock the likes of Blinker and Schofield's Bar off their perch as the ideal choice for fancy drinks or date nights? We quickly discovered that, for the high quality of cocktails here, this hidden speakeasy is an absolute steal.
So, is this really one of our city's best cocktail places? If looks were anything to go by when we arrived one early Saturday evening, this beauty was already off to a flying start. Hand-painted kingfisher murals featured on walls, framed by stained glass lamp shades, while bird motifs dotted tiles surrounding the leather-clad bar and a grand piano took pride of place. After taking a tour of the space, from Salon Vert - the mirrored absinth parlour complete with fantasy woodland scenery, a hand-blown floral chandelier and vintage fountains - to rack-upon-rack of caged rare spirits available to be purchased and then enjoyed across multiple visits, we settled down on stools right in front of the bartenders. We like to keep an eye on where the action is.
To get things started, a pair of drinks accompanied by some of the brightest birds on the feather-filled menu caught our eye: the Phoenix Down (£12) for him and a flamingo-coloured Rosado (£11) for me. The former, much like its namesake rising from the ashes, was the bar's delightful oak smoke and walnut take on an old fashioned. Similarly, mine was made with pornstar martinis in mind - minus all the gaudiness. A twist featuring pisco, Aperol, passionfruit, Peruvian groundcherry and citrus, this is one I'd recommend as a much more sophisticated (and tasty) alternative.
Continuing the trend was my partner's next pick, Bennu (£11). Touted as a savoury marg and named after the Egyptian diety who's represented in hieroglyphics as a stork, it swapped the usual triple sec with Giffard Abricot du Roussillon (apricot liqueur) and adds za'atar for good measure. One of our favourites of the evening, this spice mix spin was sublime with a pepper-like kick. Meanwhile, I happily guzzled down The Wake (£12), a smoky muddle of mezcal, sweet prickly pear and nutty rooibos tea with electric bitters. We even got an individual taste of that final ingredient when it piqued our curiosity, discovering that it was made from electric daisies to give a slight numbing effect on the tongue and enhance all the other flavours.
Finishing off our drinks selection? Fourteen Days (£11), which was made using the bar's house gin, heady with herbs from tarragon and Roots Mastic (a centuries-old Greek spirit recipe using pine-like mastiha resin), and finished off by sharp blackberry notes. Murder Of Crows (£11) had to be the other half's chosen send-off - a mixture of mandarin and two rums (one of which was Cane Toad's Super Massive Black Spiced for an unusual jet-black colour), alongside Ming River baijiu's pink peppercorn, star anise and earthy pineapple flavours. While perhaps not what either of us would usually go for on a menu, these two proved that stepping out of your comfort zone is a breeze at Project Halcyon Distillery.
The DesignMyNight Digest
It's easy to see why these guys are winning awards left, right and centre once you've paid them a visit. Whether you fancy one of their delicious takes on your favourite tipple or something else totally unique, Project Halcyon Distillery delivers a stand-out experience. Plus, if you need any menu explanations or recommendations, the friendly mixologists here are on-hand to wow with details about each process and ingredient too. See you at the bar.
💰 The damage: £70 for six cocktails.
📍 The location: Bonded Warehouse, M3 3GS.
👌 Perfect for: One-of-a-kind drinks served in a sultry speakeasy-style bar.
⭐ Need to know: Keep an eye out for the launch of their gin distillery experiences.
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