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Ian Brown observed that Manchester has everything except a beach, and that includes more great bars, pubs and offbeat drinking oddities than you can shake a bucket and spade at. A proud culture of creativity, as well as a keen collective thirst, has contributed to the development of the Northern Quarter as the drinking hub of the city. Here, late-night New York-style pool rooms share customers with revitalised heritage pubs, and real ale enthusiasts have a funky new place to call a home-from-home. Glamour lives across town on Deansgate where nights out are done in style and sometimes at great heights, while drinking and thinking are perfectly possible at the arty hangouts of Oxford Road. Luckily, Manchester is eminently walkable, so you don’t have to choose.
Snag one of four pool tables at this vast subterranean speakeasy and you could play till dawn – closing time isn’t until 5am at the weekend. Smile sweetly at the barman and he might impart the secret members’ code, which allows access to the exclusive hidden room.
The Beetham Tower is visible for miles around Manchester, and seeing and being seen is part of the fun at Cloud 23. Far enough up the tower to offer stunning views of the cityscape, it makes demands of its customers – get yourself on the guest list (easily done online) or it’s unlikely that you’re coming in.
An independent wine shop just around the corner from Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. The benefits of its long and fascinating list are passed on to customers at its modest in-store bar and pavement tables. You pay £6 plus the retail price to drink any bottle on the shelves.
Staff at this NQ tropical paradise claim to ‘bend over backwards’ to accommodate their customers, though strictly in a limbo sense. Rum is a speciality, and finds its way into celebratory bowl drinks to share.
It’s a key part of the University strip, but it’s not just students who flock to Kro 2’s capacious and (crucially) heated patio to knock back Danish pale ale. Visible from the train as you come into Manchester, it’s a refreshing sight for all.
Housed in a narrow and beautifully ornate building not far from the neo-Gothic Town Hall, Mr Tom’s oozes history. A wine list compiled by two of Manchester’s premier wine experts is a classy diversion from the guest ales and table service saves the legs.
Port Street Beer House (pictured, right)
The people behind popular NQ haunt Common execute their follow-up concept, dedicated to craft and artisan beers, brilliantly. Around 110 handmade gems from brewers around the world are served in a minimalist two-floor bar which looks like the kind of simple but cosy pub Kevin McCloud might design.
The kind of smoky wizardry that get restaurants their Michelin stars is employed behind the bar at this Spinningfields bar, which is packed at weekends despite its location in the business district. Its proximity to the ITV studios makes Corrie-based sightings highly likely.
Refurbished by two bandmates, this tiny two-room pub appeals to traditional drinkers and funkier fly-by-nights thanks to its selection of cask ales and remodelled back room. Club nights and live music bring the place to life. The favoured bar snack is the Manchester egg, served hot.
Long-settled at the heart of the city’s cultural scene, The Cornerhouse houses exhibition space and arthouse cinema screens as well as a bar and café. A pre-show pint is only half the story; quizzes and events keep people here all night.