Twenty-three floors above the bustling streets of the city centre you can find some breath-taking views of the Manchester skyline.
City lights twinkle as far as the eye can see as you play spot the landmark. Toy-sized cars and trains whizz about on the ground below. Odd fireworks left over from bonfire night sparkle with bright colours on the horizon. It’s amazing. And, as it happens, the drinks are pretty stunning too.
At Hilton’s Cloud 23 Bar the first-rate views demand first-rate drinks, and so it’s not surprising that the beverages are delicious. At a launch for the Autumn/Winter cocktail menu in the swanky VIP lounge, the bar staff introduce four new concoctions they have created exclusively for Cloud 23 – and each cocktail has a connection to Manchester’s history and culture.
Throughout the evening the head bartender, who originally created the cocktails, conjures the four drinks while he explains their nod to Manchester’s heritage. The first one is called Cornetto di Cloud and harkens back to the invention of the ice cream cone. Surprisingly, the ice cream cone was created just down the road in Ancoats by Antonio Valvona, and this light and sweet raspberry cocktail is tasty tribute to the real thing. Presented in a cone glass topped with vanilla foam and hundreds and thousands, it actually looks like an ice cream, and is a drink that will remind you of summer on a dark winter’s night. It’s very easy to swig it down but the delicious creamy taste you get if you mix it up a bit is hard to resist. The Cornetto di Cloud contains black raspberry Belvedere vodka, cassis, raspberry syrup and of course the vanilla foam and sprinkles on top.
Next up was the more unusually flavoured Japanese-inspired cocktail, The Mission to Manchester. This drink remembers when Manchester’s Albert Square was the scene of celebration in 1872 as the Lord Mayor welcomed the Iwakura Mission from Japan, a movement which formed the framework of Japan’s modern day industrial success. The drink is served in a traditional Japanese bowl (see the image at the top of the page) with a huge chunk of ice and has two chopsticks to keep the ice in when you take a sip. It features Hendrick’s Gin and lots of Japanese ingredients such as Sake, Genmaicha Tea Syrup (which has a nutty popcorn taste), Yuzu and Rose Water. I usually hate Sake (thanks to a bad experience at university where we heated up a mug in the microwave) but this drink was lovely.
The third cocktail, The 7’s Club, was inspired by the significance of the No7 shirt worn by many Manchester United heroes, namely David Beckham. Sorry City fans! Each ingredient comes from every country that Beckham has played in, so you could say that it’s an international concoction. Representing England is Beckham’s own brand of whisky, Haig Club, while for France there is Dubonnet dessert wine; for Spain there is a Rosemary Syrup; for Italy, a coffee liqueur; and lastly there is Walnut Bitters from Los Angeles. It’s definitely one to try for whisky lovers – strong, smooth and full of flavour. The 7’s Club is served in a whisky glass with a football ice cube and is presented on a quirky AstroTurf football pitch mat.
The last one, and without a doubt the most impressive, is Stratospheric, which celebrates the tallest building in the city and the home of Cloud 23, the Beetham Tower. It’s the most extravagant drink I have ever seen. Served in a silver Martini glass on top of a metre-high glass tower emitting dry ice in an endless stream, it is quite possibly the tallest cocktail in Britain, and is as indulgent in its ingredients as in its appearance, mixing Ciroc red berry vodka, Tanqueray 10 gin, hibiscus flower syrup, raspberry and passion fruit syrups, citrus juice and champagne. It’s delicious, fruity and balanced, but you have to wait until the dry ice has gone before you can try it. This is truly a drink for special occasions, quite highly (haha) but aptly priced at an eye-watering £23 in reference to Cloud 23.
One of the more warming parts of the evening, aside from the alcohol, was chatting to the two bartenders. They were both informative and friendly, but it was especially cheering to see the genuine interest and pride that they take in their work. After all, they came up with the ideas for new cocktails, spent many hours perfecting them, and made the decorations themselves, including the little AstroTurf pitches. Cheers!
The Autumn/Winter cocktails are available every day at Cloud 23, Hilton Deansgate Hotel. For further information visit www.cloud23bar.com