Amazing cocktails at Manchester’s Mr Cooper’s House and Garden
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 October 2015 | UPDATED: 20:07 07 June 2016
The new generation of cocktail is infused with all good things, so why did Janet Reeder wake up feeling ‘delicate’ after sampling a few?
The art of making cocktails just got a little more scientific - at least at Mr Cooper’s House and Garden at Manchester’s prestigious Midland Hotel which is where I encountered the recently appointed bar manager Joe Butcher.
I am not only introduced to a quirky cocktail list but a piece of machinery called a rotary evaporator, that could have come straight out of Nassau.
When I get home I look up the science and learn that rotary evaporators are distillation units that incorporate an efficient condenser with a rotary flask system. As the flask containing the solvent is rotated it continually transfers a thin layer of liquid over the entire inner surface.
This means that not content to mix up the hundreds of wines and spirits that can be found behind the bar, Mr Cooper’s bar staff are also able to create their own bespoke liquors, giving customers a drinks experience that matches that of executive chef Simon Rogan’s dishes.
As Joe explains: ‘The rotary evaporator is used for extracting solvents from a solution and the one we’re involved with mostly is ethanol.
‘What it does is act as a traditional still - which you heat up to a sufficient temperature to extract the alcoholic vapour while leaving everything else behind giving you your base spirit that you can infuse with botanicals
‘This does the same sort of thing as a conventional still but does it under a vacuum which lowers the boiling point of whatever we are trying to extract, so alcohol/ethanol which will normally evaporate at about 70 degrees centigrade will essentially be distilled at 35 degrees centigrade. This allows us to maintain its freshness.‘
Joe hands over a glass of vodka infused with cherry tomatoes which I gingerly sip. There’s an echo of tomato freshness and it is easy to see how this can be used in the bar’s version of a Bloody Mary.
‘Cherry tomatoes blended with vodka gives this flavour, incredibly fresh off the vine tomato which you wouldn’t get from normal distillation,’ says Joe.
‘Using all these scientific methods and modern techniques means we adhere to the same standards as the kitchen - that’s the big focus for us as we go forward. It’s pretty cool.
‘We’ve always created our own products where we feel we can do a better job than the more commercially available products on a smaller scale. It gives us that level of refinement and we can tweak it to how we need it.’
In the interests of ‘scientific research’ therefore, Cheshire Life Editor and cocktail aficionado Louise Taylor joined me at the bar to sample to results of so much effort.
We kicked things off with a cocktail that included ale and was displayed in an unladylike beer mug. One for the boys we think! It’s called punningly Apple of My IPA and is a mixture of Mr Cooper’s House blended Scotch, apple and sage syrup, Dolin dry vermouth and IPA foam. It’s more cocktail than beer and the cappuccino style foam makes it fun.
Next, using the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland as a pretext we tried Through the Looking Glass. A pleasing mix of gin, lavender mette and citric dilution, which subtly evoked the abundance of a spring garden.
And finally we sampled a classic Mojito with special mint distilled run which definitely gave the drink an edge of freshness that isn’t always there. In fact it tasted almost healthy. Unfortunately my fuzzy head next morning told a very different story because why the ethanol is extracted from these drinks it ends up being retored back to them.
Prairie oysters all round!