Apotheca, a Veritable Cure-All for Cocktail Dismay
An ‘apotheca’, or someone who works in ‘apothecaries’ describes a term that derives from the fourteenth century and can be defined as someone whom prepares and sells drugs and tinctures for medicinal purposes. However, with its medieval origins, the role of an apotheca was tied up with both ideas of pharmaceutical necessity and ideas of enigmatic witchcraft. It is interesting therefore, that one of Manchester’s most successful bars is too named Apotheca. True, the role of a barperson has its resonances with the apotheca; they both offer mystifying concoctions, which can in part ease your woes and in one part provide intoxicating woes of their own. However, the potions provided in Apotheca have only the effect of delicious satisfaction. Inebriation is the risk of the customer’s not the apotheca’s, and of course what marks a medicinal self-prescription is always subjective.
Apotheca embraces it’s associations with an apothecary of old and presents itself as a steampunk honky-tonk that would offer a delicious elixir or two to H.G. Wells himself. Based in the trendy Northern Quarter, Apotheca matches its period inspirations with a stylish and sultry branding, making it a fashionable destination for its Mancunian clientele.
Flippancy aside, Apotheca is a perfect destination for someone looking for a bar with an edge, for somewhere to become a new regular haunt, for somewhere that provides excellent mixed cocktails in a sleek setting. Whether you’re a local, single or dating, Apotheca is sure to be a venue with satisfying drinks, a vibrant atmosphere and a quirky twist.
Join Dorian Gray in Apotheca’s Neo-Goth Setting
Walking down the entryway steps into Apotheca’s Basement Lounge is reminiscent of walking into a mysterious and exclusive club, a clandestine meeting point for the enigmatic figures across history. This is largely due to the immediate sense of ambience that is imparted. Exposed brick, dark mahogany furnishings and deep black leather seating areas punctuate the moody décor of crimson carpets and walls. There are also lacquered black columns intersecting the area; the result is sensual and gothic without being kitsch. Given that Apotheca is likely to become busy, it is recommended you get there early enough to bag a seat, particularly given how tastefully appointed the seating areas are; whether it’s the aforementioned black leather sofas, the elegant Queen Anne chairs or the embossed bar stools. The setting of Apotheca is somewhere where you could picture a contemporary Dorian Gray being set, itself being an evocative establishment for night-time indulgence but with the period charm of modern Victoriana.
Open up a Cabinet of Curious Cocktails
Of course, what’s most worth mentioning about Apotheca is its tempting assortment of drinks. The cocktails offered at Apotheca are many and are roughly priced at around £8 per glass. At this price, the cocktails are slightly more expensive than the typical mainstream competitor, yet this comparatively slight incline in price is made up for with a mighty incline in quality. Often overlooked in many an establishment offering a cocktail is the art of mixology and Apotheca, given it’s self-appointed but indeed appropriate title knows how to blend together a brew.
The cocktail menu is expansive, and divides itself into some admittedly quirky categories. The first of these categories contains the staples of a cocktail bar and is so named ‘Twisted Classics and Apotheca Originals’. With such a name, it is no surprise that the well-balanced and artful drinks are arranged with a unique angle. An example of which is the ‘Chilli Chocolate Manhattan’ containing Bulleit Bourbon stirred with sweet Vermouth and chilli and chocolate bitters for a hard-hitting and punchy take on a classic. Another of the categories offered is the ‘Bubbly Cocktail’, with its drinks served in champagne flutes and is expectedly opulent. A favourite of these is the ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and that is nothing to do with my taste in music. This mixture is spicy and sweet and fuses together the almond liqueur of Disaronno, balsamic vinegar, strawberries and black pepper with a final layer of Prosecco.
However my utmost preferred drink comes from the former of the ‘Devilish’ and ‘Delightful’ categories. The fittingly Faustian Cocktail, ‘The Cultivation of the Eastern Giant’ will have you revel in hedonistic delights. This is a bitter but hot tonic made with Tanqueray gin, lychee liqueur, teapot bitters, lime, mooli and aloe vera juice and is served with Wasabi Peas. It is unusual, zingy but moreish; it certainly is the cocktail if any, which would have me bargaining away my soul. It’s therefore fitting that, as we’ve established, Dorian Gray will be in company.
Create your own with Apotheca’s Classes
If you fancy learning mixology from the recipient Manchester’s Food and Drink Festival ‘Best Bar’ award in 2009, then Apotheca too, has you covered. Apotheca’s Cocktail Making classes come in two varieties, a package named ‘Tincture’ and a package named ‘Elixir’. Although there isn’t much difference between them, the former offers a brief but fun discussion on the history of cocktails, followed by an introduction to how they are created. After tips and secrets are divulged, one can let loose behind the bar to create their own blend. This package is prices at £25 per person and includes 3 cocktails, whereas ‘Elixir’, at £30 includes everything previously mentioned and an additional glass of bubbly. There is also the opportunity to arrange a bespoke class, which can be tailored to the details as you suggest. I would say this is particularly attractive as an idea for a party, such as a school reunion, a ‘Stag Do’ or a ‘Hen Night’. Each cocktail class is booked in a 2-hour slot during 11am – 10pm Sunday-Thursday, and 11am-5pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Indulgent and Appetite-Busting food
To compliment one’s indulgence of alcohol, Apotheca also offers great food, although less arcane in nature. Apotheca sources its food from it’s sister restaurant, ‘Dough’, and provides a satisfying selection of decadent pizzas and bar snacks. Pizzas can be ordered either in personal sizes or as a group ‘tear-n-share’ order and are priced at £9.95 or £15.95 accordingly. Although a gooey and filling pizza is hardly fine dining, they are veritably a delectable accompaniment to a cocktail. They come with the expected host of toppings, from the ‘Veggie’ and ‘Meat Mash Up’. However, the variety that I had during my visit, and very much gorged upon was the ‘Moroccan’. Perhaps atypical for a pizza, this option was served with succulent pieces of spiced lamb with sweet apple-soaked raisins and almonds. The bar snacks are also deliciously indulgent and include classics such as nachos, pulled pork and oven-roasted Camembert. The food at Apotheca may not be haute cuisine, but it certainly hits the spot when it comes to naughty treats.
All in all, Apotheca is certainly one of the best bars to frequent in Manchester. It has remained a success since it’s genesis in 2008 precisely because it brings high standards and good taste to each of its areas. The décor, atmosphere, food and drink are all highly considered but presented in a fun and relaxed manner. It is an establishment I recommend without reservation. It is a perfect destination for a bar that offers classics with a stylish twist for those looking for a new place to go in Manchester.