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Guide

The best cocktail bars in Manchester

1 year ago

Did you know that cocktails date back to ancient Rome? Granted, they were a medicinal tonic and not just a fancy way to get drunk, but the concept was the same.

Cocktails have come a long way since then and Manchester’s bar scene is known for being ahead of the curve. From the award-winning Schofield’s to the inspired Speak in Code, the city is a mecca for mixology.

Here we’ve put Confidential Guides’ extensive experience of bar-hopping to excellent use, and whittled down the city’s many chic drinking dens to 24 of the best places for cocktails in Manchester.

Use our search function to find even more things to do in Manchester and beyond.

Do you think your (or someone else’s) business deserves a mention in our Guides? Let us know on Twitter: @cnfguides

  • Elderflower Negroni at Atomeca
    Book Now Castlefield

    Atomeca

    Bars

    Atomeca at Deansgate Square is an all-day European drinkery. It’s a small, comfortable space with tables breaking out into the airy foyer.

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  • party time at Banyan Spinningfields Manchester
    Manchester City Centre

    Banyan | Corn Exchange

    Bars

    Banyan in Manchester’s Corn Exchange has something for everyone and one of the best outdoor drinking and dining spots in the city.

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  • Blinker - one of the Manchester cocktail bars that made the 2024 Top 50 Cocktail Bars list.
    Manchester City Centre

    Blinker Bar

    Bars

    The name for Blinker Bar comes from a forgotten classic three-ingredient cocktail made from rye, grapefruit and raspberry. It’s this curious collection of ingredients that inspired ex-Gordon Ramsay bars boss Dan Berger to create a menu that changes seasonally but still honours the classics.

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  • Cocktail served at Cuckoo, a bar in Prestwich, Manchester
    Prestwich

    Cuckoo

    Bars

    Like the interloping bird that gives it its name, Cuckoo was an odd-one-out when it first opened in Prestwich back in 2013. Since then a whole flock of likeminded, indie cafe-bars have landed in this suburb, but Cuckoo is still the favourite for many.

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  • Dakota Grill Manchester Lamb Rump
    Book Now Manchester City Centre

    Dakota Grill Manchester

    Bars

    Dakota Grill Manchester is the work of former Malmaison owner, Ken McCollough and it is as dark-hued and handsome as the successful boutique hotel chain. It’s an inviting place with flickering candlelight, very retro-sexy – sure to be the setting for many a first date.

    The focus at Dakota is on steaks which are very good – all grass-fed, 28 day-aged, hand-cut Aberdeenshire beef cooked over hot coals.

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  • Cocktails served at San Carlo Fumo in Manchester city centre
    Book Now Manchester City Centre

    Fumo

    Bars

    With its terrace overlooking Oxford Road and its much-photographed spiral staircase, Fumo is a favourite spot in Manchester for dinner and drinks with friends.

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  • Grand Pacific - one of the most romantic restaurants in Manchester for Valentine's Day.
    Book Now Manchester City Centre

    Grand Pacific

    Bars

    Grand Pacific is the work of Living Ventures and it easily outshines its sibling venues in terms of pure glamour. Not in a big chandeliers, glass and chrome Spinningfields way, but with a decadent blend of colonial Raffles-style grandeur and some of the best of the city’s Victorian architecture.

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  • The cheese and meat sharing board at Haunt - a recommended wine bar and coffee shop in Manchester city centre.
    Manchester City Centre

    Haunt

    Bars

    When Peter Street lost its Caffe Nero it gained Haunt, an independent coffee shop and wine bar. Stepping inside, you feel like this corner spot in the beautiful St George’s House, with its views of the Midland Hotel and Central Library, has finally got the classy occupier it deserves.

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  • Manchester City Centre

    Hawksmoor

    Bars

    The first Hawksmoor steakhouse outside of London opened on Deansgate in 2015 and is a confident affair. Well sourced steak and attention to detail have created a place like no other.

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  • Cocktail served at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Manchester
    Book Now Oxford Road

    Hyatt Regency Hotel Manchester

    Hotel

    The Hyatt Regency hotel is one of the most highly rated hotels in Manchester, with incredible views of the city and University Green from the rooms on the higher floors. 212 rooms are decked out in a modern style, all with floor-to-ceiling windows and king beds.

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  • One of the private dining rooms at The Ivy
    Manchester City Centre

    The Ivy Manchester

    Bars

    The Ivy Manchester is an exuberant over-the-top place that’s perfect for glamming up and going out. The décor is wild yet smart and service is smooth and professional. The roof garden is a must.

    There’s an abundance about The Ivy with the costumed doorman, and the levels and levels of fun: The Ivy Asia; The Brasserie; The Ivy Roof Garden; the lurid floors; the lacquered screens; the mirrored central bar. It all adds up to a sense of occasion, a place where dining out is something special, something to dress up for.

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  • Cocktails served in King Street Tavern, the restaurant and bar at King Street Townhouse hotel
    Book Now Manchester City Centre

    King Street Tavern

    Bars

    Part of the King Street Townhouse hotel, with its luxe bedrooms and rooftop terrace boasting infinity pool and views of the Town Hall, the Tavern is an all-day dining destination that serves British classics and encourages sitting, sipping and socialising at a slow pace.

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  • One of the rooms at Leven Hotel in Manchester city centre
    Book Now Gay Village

    Leven Hotel Manchester

    Hotel

    Based conveniently near Manchester’s gay village in an early 20th-century warehouse, Leven opened in October 2021 as one of its newest, and coolest design hotels.

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  • Love From - an alcohol-free bar in Manchester city centre.
    Gay Village

    Love From

    Bars

    Karl Considine, host and founder of ‘What Next’ podcast, opened alcohol-free bar Love From as a two-week pop-up in October 2023. It’s returning in 2024 for Dry January and beyond with a three-month run in the elevated Bungalow building at Kampus, where it’ll offer a zero-booze mix of sober curious events, drinks and socialising.

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  • One of the dishes served at MUSU in Manchester
    Book Now Manchester City Centre

    MUSU

    Bars

    The Japanese word MUSU translates as ‘infinite possibilities’ and while Chef Patron Michael Shaw’s quartet of menus may not be infinite they are certainly unique for Manchester at least. With a combination of Japanese and more locally-sourced ingredients, the guest is invited to choose the way they prefer to dine at MUSU.

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  • Namii Kitchen and Cocktails is a Confidential Guides recommended Christmas party venue.
    Chinatown (Manchester)

    Namii Kitchen & Cocktails

    Bars

    It’s got neon, it’s got pastels, it’s got faux foliage, it’s got innovative cocktails and it’s got Pan Asian cuisine with a definite lean Vietnam-wards. It calls itself “authentically modern”, but faithful to the Vietnamese way of life, it recommends ordering food for the table, tapas style.

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  • Cocktail served at the Jane Eyre in Manchester
    Manchester City Centre

    The Jane Eyre

    Bars

    The Jane Eyre is a self-styled ‘neighbourhood bar’ offering seasonal food, classic cocktails and local beers. Presided over by Eyre siblings Jonny and Joe, it is, mildly disappointingly, not a Gothic homage to the Yorkshire based tragic-heroine but actually named after their late mum. 

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  • Cocktail served at Sandinista in Manchester
    Manchester City Centre

    Sandinista

    Bars

    Named after the rowdy 1980 album by The Clash, bar with food Sandinista is one part wild Latin spirit and one part punk rock.   

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  • Manchester City Centre

    Schofield’s Bar

    Bars

    Various prestigious best bar gongs have been awarded to Schofield’s Bar since it opened in Quay Street’s iconic Art Deco Sunlight House in 2021. The most recent being the number one spot in the 2024 Top 50 Cocktail Bar list.

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  • Beef tataki at Sora Manchester, a rooftop bar and restaurant in Malmaison Deansgate
    Book Now Manchester City Centre

    Sora Manchester

    Restaurant

    Sora Manchester is a rooftop bar and restaurant serving up sushi, Pan Asian small plates and views across the city’s impressive Victorian neo-Gothic architecture.

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  • A cocktail served at Speak in Code - one of the best cocktail bars in Manchester
    Manchester City Centre

    Speak In Code

    Bars

    Finding itself resting in the top 20 of the top 50 cocktail bars in the whole of the UK, Speak In Code makes everything in house and is passionate about flavour exploration, hospitality, oh, and hip hop, which inspires the drinks menu.

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  • Manchester City Centre

    Sterling

    Bars

    Sterling is probably one of the most luxurious bars to hit Manchester in recent years, located on the subterranean level of the historic Stock Exchange Hotel.

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  • Cocktail served at Three Little Words
    Manchester City Centre

    Three Little Words

    Bars

    Three Little Words is housed under the arches at the lesser-visited end of Watson Street, near Beetham Tower. Inside you’ll find the Spirit of Manchester gin distillery, a cocktail bar, and a kitchen serving small plates with thoroughly decent cooking. It’s certainly a place worth knowing about.

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  • Cocktail served at The Washhouse - a bar in Manchester city centre
    Manchester City Centre

    The Washhouse

    Bars

    Tucked away on Shudehill is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bar, The Washhouse. And, as it’s name suggests, it’s not what you’d typically expect from a place to drink cocktails.

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  • Manchester City Centre

    Wood & Company

    Bars

    With its disguised entrance and back street location, Wood & Co has the feel of a secret speakeasy only frequented by those in the know. The unmarked door is on South King Street, in between Cross Street and Deansgate. Descend the steps and you’ll find yourself in a tiled, sleek space centred on a marble bar that stretches the length of the room.

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