10 August, 2014

Guilty by Association (GBA), Stevenson Sq - Manchester Cocktails #1

You could be forgiven for walking past GBA (Guilty by Association) and completely missing it or not even noticing that beneath the busy streets, lies a rather lovely and inviting bar underground. I had walked past it on several occasions, not for once thinking it was a bar but more often than not, assuming it was an office or a gallery space of sorts. It was the boy who told me otherwise. 

If we don't have a plan set in concrete for our weekends, we usually find ourselves strolling around the city, eating a few nibbles along the way and popping in and out of newly discovered shops, cafes and bars. It's become a little hobby. A game where we ask Manchester to surprise us. Manchester never fails and we win by getting to experience a whole host of culinary treats or sweet and tipsy inducing cocktails.

Recently GBA, became our Saturday place of choice. We made our way underground via the dark staircase and I honestly had no idea what to expect. I thought perhaps I would be greeted by a dark bar, low lighting, a space difficult to navigate through, however it was the opposite that proved to be the case.

GBA has the aesthetic of a bar 'right up my street'. Mismatched furniture containing some pre-loved car seats from automobiles gone by, exposed ceilings and a mixture of brick and wood paneling lining the walls. The art of creating a look that says we haven't tried too hard is indeed, a difficult one to master, but I love what GBA has achieved. It's a comfortable space and for the day that was in it, it was the perfect choice to relax for an hour.

Having chosen some pre-loved car seats to rest our legs, we made our way to the bar. I was quick to grab the cocktail menu and seek out a new potion to try. Manchester it seems, has given me the new confidence to say to a barman, "What do you recommend?". For you see, being a barman here brings with it a whole host of knowledge and experience. Many are well versed in the language of cocktail making, often creating their own signature cocktails and adding them as special on the menu that day. Being a barman here is a respected profession and there are competitions to enter and awards to win should you meet the standard of what makes a great barman or mixologist.

We got chatting to the GBA barman who happily shared his knowledge and clear love of making cocktails. I did my usual "There's so much choice here in Manchester" spiel and the boy eyed up the menu while I blabbed away. The barman and I got chatting about great cocktail bars in Manchester and he openly shared about the importance of including the senses when making a great cocktail and how different brain receptors work when using a variety of ingredients. It really fascinated me.

In the end, I chose 'Sassy Bitch', mainly because the barman assured me it was sweet tasting and that the alcohol wouldn't be overpowering. That's the thing about me, I prefer my drinks not to taste too strong, I just can't handle it. I like to know I'm drinking without knowing I'm drinking. The boy chose a jam based cocktail created by the owner of the bar and then I sat back and drooled over the skill of the barman as he prepared our drinks.

And it's the skill of cocktail creation that I'm fascinated in. The process and how barmen remember the exact amount of ingredients to add. The array of equipment and contraptions used to make the perfect drink. I love the finer details, like delicately pouring or adding a piece of mint on top, or in the case of my cocktail, a sweet raspberry and a sprinkle of popping candy. I love the choice of glasses they can be served in, Roberts cocktail was in a jam jar, a nod to the jam ingredient. I love it all and I want to learn more.

Excitedly we took our drinks to our car seats of choice and chilled out. Very kindly, the barman gave us two shot glasses of 'Sassy bitch', explaining he made a little too much and rather than let it go to waste, he made two miniature cocktails, complete with popping candy. I thought it was a sweet and generous gesture. I've discovered in so many Manchester eateries and bars that if you ask questions and take an interest, those on the receiving end are happy to help, often letting you try a little something in advance. If anything, it's excellent customer service.

As is the norm with us (and most couples I expect) we tasted each others drinks. The boys was delicious, not too overpowering, sweet but no so much that even he wouldn't be able to drink it. Mine was divine, just divine. The foamy froth melting away in your mouth to reveal a deep tasting cocktail which warmed me up. We chatted, relaxed and took in the surroundings. It was a number of hours before the night crowd would appear so the space felt chilled, peaceful and not packed to the brim with loud crowds.

With that our cocktails were gone. We did ponder purchasing a few more but decided to keep our pennies for another cocktail adventure. It seems that a new bar appears to be popping up every few weeks. Its hard to keep up, but it's a hobby we're most definitely enjoying.

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