Cocktails appear to be the “in” thing at the moment but if you don’t know your Boston shaker from your champagne coupe then don’t fret because help is on hand.
The lads at top Northern Quarter cocktail bar Socio Rehab run excellent mixology masterclasses and after just 90 minutes in their company, you’ll be shaking it like Tom Cruise in the film Cocktail.
As someone whose idea of making a cocktail is throwing together random spirits from the cupboard with a bit of Coca-Cola, a cocktail class with a professional was an offer not to be sniffed at.
COCKTAIL KING: It didn't take long for Andrew to feel at home behind the bar!
Barman Jon Leathley was the perfect tutor – patient, knowledgeable and clearly skilled at his job.
The first cocktail our group of six tackled was a classic which is riding a wave of popularity at the minute – the Mojito.
MAKING A CLASSIC: The Sidecar
“Every bar does its own take on the Mojito, which is popular because it is a drink that both men and women feel comfortable with,” Jon said, explaining its current position as the king of cocktails.
Mixing the very best white rum with sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, mint leaves and the merest dash of soda, the Socio Mojito is among the best I’ve ever tasted.
IS THAT A MUG? Despite the surplus of beautiful cocktails, Andrew still found time for a brew
An effort made by our friend (invited behind the bar to join in on this one) was certainly stronger but, with a little guidance from Jon, was certainly drinkable. Just.
Continuing on the theme of classic cocktails, Jon invited each of us in turn to take our places behind his high bar and shake our stuff, producing a gin-based Bramble, the brandy Sidecar and two kinds of Margarita – the classic (obviously!) and a Tommy’s Margarita, which features plenty of agave syrup.
EASY DOES IT: Andrew struggles to get his glass out of his shaker
Jon also explained that as important as it is have the right balance in a cocktail, the garnish chosen for the top of the drink is also paramount.
He said: “You want to have something that gives an indication of what the drink is. So for a Mojito, some mint and for the margarita a lemon, which can also be used to move the salt away from the rim if the customer doesn’t want it there.”
THE FINISHING TOUCH: Jon adds some salt to the rim of a Margarita
Cocktails served in a Collins glass or high ball – the tall thin glasses – always have the garnish under the straw, that way the drink not only tastes the cocktail but also gets a whiff of the garnish – an experience in stereo if you like.
After a superb selection of classics, we were given a sneak preview of Socio Rehab’s festive cocktails.
THE CLASSICS: Natasha prepares to enjoy not one but two Cosmopolitans
The mince pie mojito was a collision of winter and summer to great effect and includes a generous teaspoon of sweet mince as well as darker rum, mint etc.
My favourite though was the Silk Stocking Filler – a heavenly mix of port, cognac, cranberry conserve and egg white. It mind sound strange but I could have sat there all night getting slowly sozzled on the stuff.
CHRISTMAS COCKTAIL: The Silk Stocking Filler
But, alas, the time to head to head back into the bitterly cold Manchester night and grab something to eat had arrived and so we said our goodbyes and left.
We were meant to be there for an hour but the relaxed nature of the class – although to call it that suggests it wasn’t much fun when really it was all fun – meant we were there almost double that and even then there was no-one shoving us out of the door.
PROUD OF HIS WORK: Andrew hands over a classic Margarita
Socio Rehab caters for groups of all sizes and with the likes of Jon and his colleagues – who kept popping into the bar and imparting their knowledge on various spirits, glasses and concoctions throughout the class – it is the perfect opportunity to get a load of friends together to experience something new.