Bars, Serves /

Alston Bar & Beef, Manchester

The Corn Exchange has become one of Manchester’s destination spots, full of vibrant new eateries, bars and even a hotel. With so much to explore, you might just miss the entrance to Alston Bar & Beef, whose restaurant and speakeasy Prohibition-style bar lie beneath the footpath.

Walking down the steps, we enter what seems to be a rather cosy restaurant. The black and white tiles line the floors, giving way to a colourful bar on the right with the kitchen peeping through at the back. Bar Manager Antony Pearman greets us at the door and quickly glides across the tiles to give us a tour, opening and closing sliding glass doors that give way to a private dining space, and what looks to be seating for a whole restaurant altogether. He’s quick to show us around because he’s itching to take us even further down, into the 1837 bar. Behind a black curtain, a new set of black and white tiles are revealed, this time overwhelmingly black to match the darker, and more mysterious, but comforting setting.

Ant begins by quenching our thirst. Alston Bar & Beef stick to the classics, but add their own twist on the old favourites. He’s stirred up an Old Fashioned for us, mixed with Muscovado sugar as it dissolves quickly and allows the gin to shine. It’s strong, and only 3pm in the afternoon so we sip slowly, mostly because we don’t want it to end…

Ant tells us he started his career as a chef, but as the saying goes, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ So after seven years in stints around the country, he moved to Cambridge and began pulling pints. An opportunity then came knocking to move to Newcastle to work at As You Like It, and he spent four years developing his skills and cocktail style. It’s also where his obsession with gin began, and because it’s something he never tires of, got a martini tattoo on his left forearm to immortalise the love.

Which is why it made sense for him to begin working at Alston Bar & Beef, where gin and steak are the main attraction. We probably shouldn’t tell you this, but the bar is quite famous for its own gin, which Ant makes using the cold compound method. He goes foraging for botanicals and ingredients in the local Walton Park, and on occasion sources other ingredients like coconut, lychee and spices to create fourteen different flavours of gin. It’s popular not only because it’s delicious (we must admit), but because Mancunians always love something produced locally – it plays into the working bee ethos the city is so famous for.

Apart from making gin, Ant thinks of different ways to create community among the Manchester bartenders. Luckily for him, there’s no shortage of confidence or experience, and very little ego to go around. This coming September he’ll host an Old Fashioned contest amongst the top bartenders in Manchester. It’ll be a blind tasting where everything can come together and show their spin on the classic. Oftentimes your expertise is shown in how you can create a tried and true cocktail…

But Alston Bar & Beef isn’t only catering to the bartender crowd. We will be hosting their BeGIN dinner nights on the 6th and 7th of September, 2018. It all begins with a Brockmans masterclass and of course our perfect G&T, followed by a bespoke menu to pair with our botanicals. Cocktails will accompany every course alongside special limited edition Brockmans cocktails on the bar should you wish to extend the evening with our Brand Ambassador Mike Whatmough. It’s been very popular, so if you care to join for £29.95pp, best book now

As we take our last few sips, we fire the last few questions at Ant…

Alston Bar & Beef Brockmans Gin_9091

1. Describe your bar in a few words.

A bar of two parts, one to feed you, one to water.

2. What is the best thing you have overheard at 1837?

This brand guy came in one time going on and on about his vegan product which we took on and enjoy. But this is a steakhouse, so that aspect doesn’t matter much!

3. Why is gin so popular?

It’s so versatile and perfect for every occasion. You can drink it with any food, summer or winter, there’s never not a perfect time.

4. What about Brockmans appeals to you?

It’s a fantastic product. You can have it straight, neat and in a G&T or cocktail. It’s all about the flavours, and it’s high proof. I also like that you guys don’t hide your botanicals, you’re open about what is in the gin.

5. If you could have one last drink before you died, what would it be?

A Negroni. 1:1:1

Alston Bar & Beef Brockmans Gin_9091Old Fashioned Brockman

Ingredients

  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 50ml Brockmans Gin
  • 1 bar spoon Muscovado Sugar

Method

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass in the above order. Stir for a little while until all ingredients are blended. The sugar dissolves quickly so there’s less need to stir, and therefore less dilution. Enjoy…