Cocktail Masterclass at Tariff & Dale

This almost feels like deja vu – though I’d be the first to admit the venue for this masterclass was very different. 

Where the Liars Lounge at Cane & Grain was Tiki-tastic, Tariff & Dale is a much more relaxed atmosphere – no loud Hawaiian prints or skateboards. 

By contrast, one of the newest bars to the Northern Quarter offers whitewashed walls, exposed brick, wooden flooring and open space. It’s one of the reasons it’s become a steady fixture in my diary. It’s comfortable, spacious (though not on a weekend evening, obviously) and with lots of little features that make it a little bit special.

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Not least of which is the little lift shaft next to the bar. A cute squeeze for a group, or perfect spot for a romantic date, Tariff & Dale keeps it’s industrial heritage visible, loud and proud, whilst still managing to be a great bar. 

But I digress. This night was all about cocktail fun and yes, once again, I was being intermittently persuaded behind the bar. 

Fuzzy was our host for the evening – there to take us through three cocktails on the menu at T&D and talk us through their cocktail philosophy. From the classic cocktail, through to it’s modern counterpart and then to the Tariff & Dale version – their own little sprinkle of boozy magic.

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I must admit, it’s their copa glasses full of gin that keep me coming back (though the wine is rather good too, try their Cava for something a little lively). Each gin is given a suitable garnish and matched tonic, with their Tanqueray Rangpur with ginger and coriander and their Martin Millers with black pepper and strawberries firm favourites. 

But I digress. Again. We were here for cocktails. 

First up, a classic and one that hasn’t been improved on (can it be improved on indeed?), the mojito. A thirst quenching rum based cocktail that most of us have seen in varying guises, still, for me, the original is still the best. 

50ml of rum – Fuzzy uses Havana Club 3 year old, and 25ml of lime juice and a little sugar syrup (5ml or so depending on your taste buds) in the base of your serving glass. Grab yourelf 10 mint leaves and, the key here is to use the mint well. Place it on the palm of your hand and clap – this releases the oils in the leaves, without bashing them and bruising them (which leaves them with that slightly gritty mint sauce effect).

Pop them into your glass and add crushed ice, then using a bar spoon and a napkin to stop the ice going everywhere, gently churn the ice and liquid and mint, until they’re mixed through. Top with soda and crushed ice. 2015-09-17 17.13.20

Heaven on a warm day, and perfect for the last hints of autumn sunshine.

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As we moved onto the Tariff & Dale variation on an Old Fashioned, which uses rum, Fuzzy talked about cocktail evolution. A case in point is the Martinez which in turn spawned the Martini, and then the South Side. As we develop new spirits, discover new techniques, cocktails develop too.

Their rum Old Fashioned features 50ml of rum, in this case El Dorado 12 year old, 5ml of Pedro Ximinez sherry, 5ml of fig Briottet liqueur, and walnut bitters, ideal for those who love the idea of an Old Fashioned, but want something a little rounder. 2015-09-17 18.03.25

Finally, as we moved onto a gin based cocktail, I stepped behind the bar again. This one is the fruity Tariff & Dale take on a Tom Collins, the Berry Collins.

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are muddled in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Then 50ml of Portobello Road gin is added, two dashes of grapefruit bitters and 15ml of sugar syrup. Add ice to your shaker and shake. 

In my case, shake it probably a little too long until the top won’t come off and you have to look to Fuzzy for assistance. 

While Fuzzy fixed that, I filled a tall glass with crushed ice, before straining the finished drink over the top, and garnish with more fruit. 

I mean, just look at all that fruit. It might as well be a smoothie.

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Before I visited for the master class, I was already a bit biased towards T&D. I’ve had meetings there, nights out, and planned events with them – Manchester Gin Club will soon be there, and they’re hosting an exhibition in conjunction with Manchester Science Festival.

But even so, understanding their cocktail menu, the evolution, the process that’s behind it and yes, even standing behind that bar. Well dammit, I might just love them a little more.

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