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In back alleys and basements, behind secret doors and false facades. Stumbling across a great new bar is all well and good, but nothing quite beats the satisfaction of seeking out a real hidden gem. Bars that feel like your little secret, a Prohibition-era type of establishment that's just that little bit off the beaten track. There are plenty of them to seek out in Manchester - some hiding behind fake shop frontages, some tucked behind blank doors down alleyways. Surely by this stage we've all had a conversation that went a little something like this: "I'll meet you at that new cocktail bar.
These bars are often serving up some of the best cocktails in the city, offering some sort of world-class entertainment, or whatever else draws the punters inside when there's no outside. If you know of any more share them with us on Twitter CityLifeManc.
When we heard word that the people behind Almost Famous were opening a convenience store, we suspected something was afoot - sure enough, if you pop in here late at night you're more likely to find a pint of lager than a pint of milk. But drinks are the main event - cocktails are creative, wacky and fun, topped with Ting, grape soda and even a handful of Cheerios. If you fancy a high-octane drinking experience, make a beeline for Convenience Store.
This black-lit bar in the Northern Quarter is packed with classic consoles and arcade games from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Glowing graffiti covers the walls not good graffiti, either - they were handing out UV pens to revellers on opening weekend and letting them scrawl on the paintwork and there's a cocktail list inspired by games.
The speakeasy beneath St Ann's Square is the second site for the Sandinista group, with a drinking den already open in Leeds. Double Down comes from the same team behind Speak In Code, a speakeasy tucked down on Jackson's Row, and opened just a year after that first venture.
Speak in Code owner Nathan Larkin has teamed up with the head of education for the European Bartender School, Gavin Wrigley, for the project, which balances out the serious drinks with a hip hop playlist. It's taken over the former basement space beneath The Corner Boy once known as West Corner , which you can access from the narrow Spear Street.
Up on Deansgate Mews - that strange elevated pedestrianised street that's either accessed through the Great Northern or by climbing a long flight of steps from Deansgate - is Lions Den. There's a seating area outside for warmer months and in winter you'll be plenty entertained by their live music events, pool table, and darts - as well as, obviously, craft beers and real ales.
Though the area between Piccadilly train station and New Islington is an unlikely hive of straight-from-the-source beer and microbreweries, none are quite as inconspicuous as Cloudwater's Unit 9 taproom. It's located on a relatively modern trading estate while most of its neighbours are in railway arches , but don't be fooled by its blank brickwork face or its functional hallway and staircase. Once you travel upstairs, you'll find Scandi-influenced furniture, ceramic lampshades, lots of plants and of course lots of beers.
Pull up a seat on the mezzanine with the barrel store below you. Hidden away in a basement beneath Oldham Street, the tiny doorway of this Northern Quarter bar is easily missed. You'll have to ring a buzzer to get inside, where a staircase le down to a den of debauchery decorated with retro TVs, vintage chandeliers, mismatched mirrors and Persian rugs.
Retro rotary dial telephones are fitted at several of the booths, which customers can use to ring in their drinks order at the bar - or call another table for a chat. This place is the worst-kept secret in Manchester - Twenty Twenty Two is consistently packed full of revellers and the satisfying clatter of ping pong balls running riot. Although its reputation precedes it, you'll probably still end up walking straight past it a couple of times on your first visit - it's down a flight of stairs behind ominous-looking gates down a side street in the Northern Quarter.
The bar is also stocked with 26 whiskies from America, Japan, Scotland and Ireland and has a unique set of cocktails and some hefty Norwegian ales on tap. The Washhouse is deed to look like a humble laundrette, but behind that mock facade lies a hidden world of Mad Men chic, intimate leather booths and high-end cocktails.
The only chance of penetrating the fake first room - which contains a tiny laundrette with two machines, a giant tumble drier and a s dial phone - is by pre-booking. And at one point there wasn't even a phone listed. But, thankfully, they've now relented on that issue and you can find the on their website. You can read our review here. The rum, ribs, bourbon and beer themed bar opened couple of years ago on Thomas Street to much fanfare. So not so secret.
But while the decor in the ground floor Rib t and Tap Room, which takes its premise from its incarnation as a skater shop with 80s-style skateboards serving as seats, may not seem very understated or hidden, it's upstairs where magic happens. Hidden behind a door disguised a stack of wooden beer crates lies Science and Industry , a cocktail laboratory complete with its own chemistry workshop. It may be set right in the heart of the Northern Quarter but you'd be forgiven for marching past this place on the way to one of its neighbouring bars. And you wouldn't be alone in making that mistake and it is a huge mistake.
And even now, three years after opening, the unconventional bar front draws in people clutching outdated TVs and keyboards looking for a place to trade them in. But beyond the shop frontage lies a grown up drinking den with the brooding, dark and moody atmosphere of a speakeasy bar and a fantastic jukebox and array of cocktails. This basement bar hidden away in the belly of Hatters Hostel the entrance is round the back is a one-of-a-kind type of place.
Inspired by the tales of Jules Verne, think nautical-themed hangout, an underground sailors' drinking den lit by the glow of ship lanterns and candles and likened by some to being below deck on an ocean liner. There's also lots of hidey-holes when you get down there, a cinema room showing cult classics and a couple of vintage games consoles to relive your youth, as well as a solid selection of beers on tap plus amazing cocktails and food.
Hidden away on Half Moon Street, beneath St Ann's Square, this basement bar is the stuff of Manchester music legend - and not just because of its famous jukebox. It's been going strong for over 40 years now, having originally been opened by hen former Manchester City footballer Mike Doyle and business partner Tony Miles as a bistro.
Described as a tropical hideaway, The Liars Club is as different as you can get from the grey streets above. Away from the hustle and bustle of Deansgate on Back Bridge Street, the dive bar has an exotic list of cocktails served in elaborate tiki volcanoes, pineapples and coconut shells alongside a chilled out soundtrack of reggae and afrobeat.
It also has a fantastic selection of rum - with more than different types to whet your appetite. It's also open very late 4am every day so at least when you do eventually get there you won't have to leave early. Ok, so a huge red brick pub might not seem that hidden, or secret, but tucked away in a Salford industrial estate, this backstreet boozer is pretty difficult to find.
The Eagle Inn's customers are usually a mixture of students, musicians, artists, young professionals and residents from the apartments around Blackfriars Street. In recent years it's had a complete makeover and enjoyed the addition of a live music venue - well worth a detour. With an elegant s-style interior, the bar located above Rosylee, is brimming with sophistication and retro glamour. And in a nod to the hidden drinking dens of the prohibition era, it can only be accessed via a chandelier-clad stairwell after finding the secret ish side door off Stevenson Square.
Once inside you'll be treated to 'an atmospheric drinking den', with a soundtrack of jazz, swing and soul, plush velvet armchairs and yet more stylish cocktails. As well as the city centre branch, there's also a second site just opened in Heaton Moor. Let's be honest, how many people go out looking for an old underground public toilet when wanting a drink?
Such is the strange, alluring charm of Temple Bar. Located under Great Bridgewater Street off the busy thoroughfare of Oxford Road, the subway-style stairwell now le to a tiny rectangular room, with packed-in seating and walls strewn with posters.
There's also some great imported beers and a fantastic jukebox maybe influenced by the array of rock and roll stars who have supped here. As one of our reviewers said: "The original anti-style bar, in an age too often defined by slick surfaces, wannabe superstar bartenders and the latest fashion labels, a night out in the Temple's sweaty embrace can be all the more fun. Bridge Street's secret wonder, The Gas Lamp, has been a favourite among hip Mancunians for quite a while. The subterranean drinking den opened in in the former kitchens of a street children's mission, but has managed to retain the character, charm and history of the original building.
Head down the dimly lit stairs off Bridge Street and you'll find white tiled walls, huge roaring fires and a variety of great craft beers, real ales, ciders and spirits. The cocktail list is inventive and award-winning - expect concoctions like a caramel and spiced cherry espresso martini, or vodka infused with basmati rice and topped with mango, lemon, coconut and egg whites. Based on Short Street in a basement unit beneath Afflecks, the Northern Quarter pizza t serves the same menu as their Bridge Street compadre , with a changing monthly special.
The basement venue features the same DIY decor as Bridge Street, with lo-fi lighting covered in stickers, chunky high rise tables and vintage arcade games. As well as their usual line up of cocktails, mezcal, tequila and beers, the new branch will be stocked up with the Crazy Pedro's own ature Tequila, which will be the UK's first Herradura Double Barrel Reposado.
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Secret and hidden bars in Manchester: the best drinking dens worth seeking out