The Liquorists Rum Trail

30 Aug

A blog is not the place to unravel a night out. Down the pub, maybe, or on your friend’s couch, absolutely. Even on the phone to your Mum, but not your blog for crying out loud, a “serious” food focused affair of recipes, reviews and foodie opinion. When it comes to a rum trail however, where experience and education are the primary motivators (cough) in hitting the town, it’s entirely appropriate, and in the case of a night out with The Liquorists, wholly necessary.

Bar consultants and spirits experts, The Liquorists have been running the rum trails for years, in addition to the wider gin, whiskey and vodka repertoire they boast, taking knowledge hungry (and thirsty) keen beans around the more lively bars of the city to sip spirits, quaff cocktails and eat carefully matched food, all in the name of inebriation and ensuring the no hangover policy they guarantee.

Along with my beautiful friends Joanna and Alison, our evening started out at Hula Bar on Stevenson Square. With a group of around fourteen people, our Liquorist, Max, gave a quick rundown on how the night would go, before providing notes on how to taste the sipping rums provided. Bizarrely but effectively, holding it under the chin first allows you to smell the top notes of the liquor without getting a nostril full of ethanol, before sticking your nose right in there and identifying the defining notes of the spirit.

5 year-old Plantation Rum, Barbados

Our first sipping spirit, a 5 year-old plantation rum from Barbados had strong vanilla and caramel notes, and a smooth edge due to the oak barrel aging, which made it super easy to drink despite our initial misgivings around sampling neat rum. Followed by a refreshing Atlantic Boat Club Daiquiri and accompanied by the most delicious rum soaked caramelised pineapple, we were off to a good start.

Atlantic Boat Club Daiquiri, Hula Bar

Whilst sipping and scoffing, Max gave us a brief lesson on the history of rum, in its modern guise born out of the West Indies during the 17th century with strong connections to the slave trade, and a basic overview of the different types of rum and how it’s made. With white, golden and dark rums coming from either sugar cane juice, sugar cane honey or molasses (the latter two being side products of the sugar refining process), the many additional factors involved in determining the flavour of rum are too numerous to mention here.

By the second bar, we had all warmed up a little, and alongside banter with the incredibly confident bar men in Keko Moku, were offered a fruitier 12 year-old El Dorado from Guyana, followed by a Sanguine Swizzle. One of the cocktail finalists in a recent El Dorado Swizzle competition, this super sweet concoction including blood orange and pink grapefruit was a real treat, and set my favourite rum of the night off beautifully.

Sanguine Swizzle, Keko Moku

At this point, the heavens of Manchester opened, but thoroughly warmed by the rums we were enjoying, headed over to Odd Bar to try a 10 year-old Metusalem Clasico from the Dominican Republic. At this point, the finer points of the evening were beginning to get a little blurry, though still managed to pay sufficient attention to Max explaining the navy inspired tradition behind mixing lime in with your rum, and sipping ale alongside your spirit, making for a modern sort of grog, I suppose.

Rum & Lime plus Ale, Odd Bar

A Spanish omelette appeared around this time, and no longer shy, the damn thing disappeared within minutes under the influence our group’s drink-fuelled hunger. Visits to Tusk and The Blue Pig followed, both charismatic and busy new venues in the Northern Quarter, with a fiercely potent Jamaican rum from Wray and Nephew to sip at Tusk, rolling up at 63% and making it compulsory (for me) to sip with water. Followed by a lime-fuelled Hispter Daiquiri, unusually presented with a margarita-style salt rim, we desperately needed the toasted banana and sticky toffee dessert spoon that followed, though at this stage could have done without it being soaked in overproof rum.

Rum Soaked Toasted Banana and Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tusk

I’m sad to say I remember very little of The Blue Pig, apart from the well put together meat and cheese board from their superb deli counter, which I’ll be back to sample some other time. (I always remember the food, my friends). Only very poorly made notes from the evening and pictorial evidence have enabled me to fill the gaps between now and the Thai Green curry we all inhaled at the end of the evening back at The Liquorists HQ.*

Brugal Rum, The Blue Pig

A family run Brugal branded rum (according to my notes) and a light, easy going Apple Daquiri (according to Alison) ended the bar crawl before we headed in a taxi to the Green Quarter to meet Tom Sneesby, co founder of The Liquorists and legendary bar keep and entertainer. We were treated to a 54% Pussers Navy Rum and an aptly named Painkiller cocktail loaded with pineapple juice, making it the perfect foil for the aforementioned Thai Green curry.

Pussers Navy Rum, The Liqourists HQ

Now, despite best efforts made through the provision of food, the no hangover guarantee was a load of old pony, as the half hour time limit at each bar required most of the cocktails to be downed, providing the only let down of the evening, given the creativity and effort that had gone into making the drinks. Time issues aside, the rum trail is a seriously good laugh. With excellent company, the opportunity to learn more about rum and being ace value for money at just £35 for a weeknight trail, hiking up to £45 at the weekend, its well worth the hangover, I guarantee.

* For other, more lucid, reviews see Drinks Enthusiast and North West Nosh.

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