As a booze free household, it’s not often I ask Mo if he would like to step out for Friday night drinks in Manchester. We’d not physically seen each other in a while due to overlapping travel plans so even when I mentioned that we would be tasting a new spirit he reluctantly went with the flow (I’m sure he had a few lectures stored up just in case I was losing my mind).
It had been a hectic week, work had been full on, the traffic in Manchester was (and still is) driving us crazy but after a quick outfit change we headed to the city centre and walked through a new set of doors.
Named after the famous Bollywood icon Asha Bhosle, a household name in India and legend of stage and screen we expected nothing less than the upmarket and stylish interiors around us at Ashas Manchester. Low lighting, deep colours and lots of gold, we descended the stairs that led us to the BolliBar cocktail lounge where we would spend our ‘date night’ propping up the very glam bar.
I know, it’s starting to sound worrying…
Do these supposed non-drinkers really belong here?
As we settled on a stool, bar manager Umberto handed us one of the many menus that were scattered around. A bespoke non-alcoholic drinks menu would you believe.
I mentioned we were here to try a new spirit by Seedlip, a company that has challenged the drinks industry by creating considered and complex non-alcoholic beverages since their launch in 2015.
The Seedlip menu in collaboration with Ashas incorporates Seedlip Garden 108 and Seedlip Spice 94. Umberto gave us the opportunity to taste both spirits neat and it was fascinating to see how distinct they were in flavour and makeup. We could taste the key notes and surprise surprise, Mo and I chose opposite favourites.
Initially I was drawn into the menu purely by the fantastic photography (a designers dream see below ?)
Each image portrayed the drink as a piece of art, and I can assure you that fully translated in reality. As we ordered our first couple, 1494 for Mo and a Summer Rose Spritz for me, we sat back and watched the step by step process of building each one. From icing glasses, to mixing the various ingredients and of course final touches and presentation. The drinks boasted both style and substance, we were very impressed with our first order and eager to try more.
The 1494 was Mo’s favourite, yet the only one that wasn’t quite to my taste if I’m honest, I’m not a fan of ginger. There was a spicy kick and sensual burning cinnamon in Smoke and Mirrors, sweet citrus twist hidden in the Watermelon Cooler and rich coffee notes in the Espresso martinO, it’s impossible for me to pick one that stands out. With this collection of drinks, I’d say it all depends on your mood as they each have their own individual flavour and feeling.
Throughout the course of the evening we tasted a number of the alcohol free cocktails, on their own and with our meal up in the main part of Ashas restaurant. I definitely want to tell you more about the food part of our experience, but as I started writing this post, I decided that actually, I think I want to dedicate this little space purely to Seedlip. They have recently launched a brand new addition to the family, Grove 42, their third non-alcoholic spirit. It’s been labelled as a celebration of the orange – with Mo’s family name translating to ‘House of Orange’ we can’t wait to try it! If it’s anything as creative and innovative as the first two, we look forward to seeing what new concoctions the experts come up with.
There are plenty of restaurants and bars that offer ‘virgin’ versions of standard alcoholic drinks, most are filled with syrups or topped up massively tonic. They’re almost always an after thought, a let down drink that they begrudgingly make to satisfy an alcohol free guest, who’s been pigeon holed as ordering a boring drink.
Boring… I’d hate to have people describe me as that! and yes I do get quite offended when I am (who wouldn’t!?). As a non-drinker, it used to be very easy for people to usher you unnecessarily into that camp.
However, times are changing and the popularity of alcohol free drinks is on the rise as people become more health conscious and concerns on binge drinking are highlighted continuously in the news. Before it was very much my Muslim friends that were the non-drinkers, but over the last year I’ve started to meet many non-Muslims, who also choose not to drink and have no desire to start. Last year Club Soda, a mindful drinking community of more than 10,000 members, organised the first ever mindful drinking festival, the first of it’s kind in the UK and a sign that this sober drinking movement might be around to stay.
So are we likely to come back just for the drinks? Are we willing to hang out at the bar, invite our friends?
Absolutely, this place will do nicely.
Mo and I wanted an evening to sit comfortably, away from our home where we could just catch up and enjoy each others company. And that’s exactly what we did, stopping occasionally to peruse the menu and request another masterpiece to taste. We were relaxed, entertained and after an evening of non-stop cocktails we still had all our wits about us and better yet managed to drive ourselves home ?
***Thank you to Seedlip for inviting us to taste their new drinks menu. All opinions in this post are an honest representation of our evening, images are my own – apart from the few labelled as the press shots. Check out seedlip’s website if you want more information about their non-alcoholic spirits***