BarChick has had many a romance in cocktail bars around the world, but this particular love story begins in a Manchester rum bar at 1.30am, on a wet and cold February evening with the line, “I’m going to go and talk to the nearest unattended woman”. It’s like what Disney fairytales are made of! Seb, with all of his charm, strode over and found Jenny who was sat alone tending the bags while her friends threw shapes on the dancefloor, and asked if he could buy her a drink. She asked for a G&T (in this Manchester rum bar) and they talked the night away. He invited her back to his to check out his "gin collection" (we've all heard that line, amirite, ladies?) and he had fallen in love with her by breakfast.
Ladies and gents, BarChick can confirm that gin is the ultimate enabler to love. But you probs knew that already. We hopped on the Love Train to Up't North to learn all about the gin that was spawned from this love story, and sampled it along the way.
Originally, Seb and Jenny had a dream of opening a bar (we’ve all had that dream… especially after a few martinis) but while searching for a venue, they made a discovery. Instead of opening a bar and serving other producers spirits, they could instead make their own. And they wouldn’t need a venue for that. They could do it from the comfort of their own living room. Which they did. Genius. Obviously ,to make your own gin, you have to do a lot of research to decide what kind of gin you wanna make. There are over 315 distilleries and over 100 gin brands in the UK alone… and every gin is different. So Seb & Jenny set out to try as many as they could… all in the name of research (BarChick has been doing her own research for years… but there is no sign of an artisan gin in site…)
Taste, trial and repeat was the name of the game. Eventually, using Dandelion and Burdock Root (which they forage themselves!), and ten other specially sourced botanicals including orange and lemon, liquorice and ground almond, their Signature gin was created, and Manchester Gin was born.
With success came the need for more space, and Manchester Gin soon moved to its very own proper distillery. It's a space in the centre of the city where every bottle is hand-crafted and distilled in small batches. The three stills (each named after legendary Mancunian women including Jenny’s late mum, Wendy, Victoria Wood and iconic suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst) produce every single drop of their gin and together make just over 500 bottles a run. When they say small batch, they mean small batch. As of 2018, their Signature Gin is the most highly awarded gin in the UK - it was awarded double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Comp and gold at the IWSC, Spirit Masters and Great Taste Awards. Pretty epic going considering it was started in a living room.
Also in the Manchester Gin fam is the millennial pink bottle of Raspberry Gin. It's got a super gentle summer fruit vibe going on, and it's a bit florally; the perfect spirit for a summer picnic. While their Overboard Navy Strength gin is an intense version of their Signature gin with amplified citrus notes and intensified aromatics of juniper. And then there's the Wild Spirit. It's creamy and herbaceous; inspired by walks through the woodlands of Manchester, they've used Sage, Thyme, Orris, Lemon Balm and Silver Birch for something a little more complex.
With round citrus notes and a classic Juniper undertone, the signature gin has a smooth creamy finish with a delicate sweetness from liquorice, making this gin pretty great for sipping straight. However, you know we love a cocktail and this gin works very well in a number of classic drinks which we got to try while on our whistle-stop tour of Manchester. We went for our first Manchester Gin cocktail at the Gotham Hotel roof bar ( from the terrace you can almost see the infamous rum bar in which this love story began). This dark, sultry member’s bar with its gilded gold accents is where we tried the Gotham Picnic, showcasing the raspberry infused Manchester Pink Gin with Giffard Manzana Verde, apple, lime and cucumber. With a light, apple-green hue and a cigarello cucumber spiral garnish, it was as fresh and sweet as the view.
Every great gin lends itself well to a Gin & Tonic. We sampled the Signature Manchester Gin with Fever Tree at Tast Catala restaurant around the corner. We spoke to Seb over lunch about how he thinks his gin should be served. Unlike some gins which stipulate only one way to drink their creation with tonic, Seb is pretty chilled. He has his preference, but it's not the be all and end all if you'd rather put your own spin on it. His preference? On the rocks, poured over ice with orange peel and a rosemary sprig. Beaut.
El Gato Negro Tapas is known to be one of the best restaurants in Manchester, and they also have a bloody great bar upstairs. Their Martinez (or "Manctinez") is a bittersweet treat made with Signature Manchester Gin, with 2 or 3 dashes Dandelion & Burdock Bitters in homage to the base botanicals of the gin. They also mixed us up a pretty f*cking bizarre cocktail which was recommended to us by Seb who swears blind is the best hangover cure going. Gin & Milk. Yep... Sounds crazy, but ya know what? It bloody works. They shook up the Classic Manchester Gin with semi-skimmed Milk, Vanilla syrup, Lime Juice and served with a grated nutmeg garnish. It sounds rogue but it tastes a bit like key lime pie, which is a bit of us.
To round off our Manchester Gin cocktail experience, we headed to the über fun Alberts Schloss (where dancing on the benches is encouraged but dancing on the tables is considered uncouth) to try their smooth and sweet Clover Club made with the Manchester Pink Gin for that extra, sweet raspberry tang. This is a party-starter which is good, cos this bar is where the party is at.
Well, Seb and Jenny have taken their gin and made it even bigger. Literally. They've launched a Jeroboam of their gins (because 4.5 litres of gin is way better than 70 cl) which you can buy in the likes of Harvey Nics. It's so extra, and should see BarChick through til the end of the month. They've also partnered with tonic and mixer brand Franklin & Sons to create a pretty banging tinny using their Raspberry Gin and F&S's Sicilian Lemon Tonic Water. It comes in a 250ml stylish pink and rose gold can to make your journey juice hella stylish.
Seb has also begun distilling Absinth (because when you've already got the gear, why the f*ck not) and plans to distil all of the key ingredients to make a 100% homemade Corpse Reviver - his favourite cocktail.
And then as well as a gin production line, Seb & Jenny have also started a human production line, welcoming the youngest member of the Manchester Gin family at the end of 2018. The arrival of Baby Nico inspired the creation of 1000 special edition bottles of their Signature Gin.
What a family business to be born into. We're hoping Seb & Jenny will adopt us.