Discount Suit Company, Liverpool Street

Liverpool Street is a maze of chain restaurants and bars, but if you weave through the backstreets there are some independent gems to be found. Discount Suit Company is disguised amongst the tired clothes outlets on Wentworth Street, housed in an old storeroom of the suit company. It is one of a kind, venture in and you won’t be disappointed.

It is a cosy little neighbourhood cocktail bar with old fashioned furniture and atmospheric dimmed lighting, I felt like I was visiting a magical inn from a Harry Potter book. There is the odd businessman milling around but the crowd is varied and the ambience is a lovely laid back alternative to nearby city boy hang-outs.

Beer and wine are available, but here it is all about the cocktails: bespoke and beautifully mixed variations on the classics, priced at just £7.50 each, I found it all very appealing. The bar staff, obviously keen mixologists were eager to impress, explaining the menu (printed typewriter style on a replica suit instruction sheet) to us in detail. Cocktails are simple but creative and very easy to drink. The Bebbo cocktail is a lovely fruity and light combination of gin, lemon, acacia honey and blood orange while Subtle Peat is a stronger but beautifully balanced drink with blended Scotch, a dash of islay malt and lemon creole bitters.

A lovely low-key bar, that promotes the prohibition trend without the pretentious prices. Just like your favourite suit these drinks are tailored to your exact taste.

More information here: www.discountsuitcompany.co.uk

Artesian Bar, London

The Artesian Bar at the prestigious Langham Hotel has had a long reign as reputedly the World’s best cocktail bar. Having visited so many of Europe’s best cocktail caves, I feel I am now an expert examiner in this field and had my critical faculties alert for my recent visit. It is said that London’s best mixologists are to be found behind the bars in hotels and it is with the classic recipes that they really excel. At the Artesian Bar you will taste a superior Martini, Manhattan and Mojito… the best spirits, the coldest ice and perfect technique.

I was most excited about experiencing the innovative and artistic creations of which Artesian are so proud. The bar area is a big contrast to the lush pink decor in the rest of the hotel… dimmed lighting, low key music and a host of smart and polite bar staff. We sat quietly observing our surroundings and marvelling at the glowing assortment of bottles behind the bar.

Soon snacks arrived, delicate and delectable, to nibble on whilst we sipped our drinks. If you choose to be adventurous and try the experimental Artesian concoctions you will be given the clever wheel of cocktails chart, a bespoke butterfly themed menu from which to choose. Here the recipes are split up into categories dependant on flavour, strength and aroma: woody and deep, delicate and delicious, oriental and floral, fruity and refreshing, fresh and sexy and rich and aromatic.

We tried a variety, each one entirely different from the last both in taste and look. ‘Above & Beyond’ was an unforgettable revelation, a strong but balanced drink, it arrived with a collection of anecdotes. A plastic pillow that you are invited to burst and smell (a deep scent drifts from the plastic), and inside a little gift: a bag of worry dolls from a remote village in Guatemala! It was an intricate mix of flavours, apparently involving banana, coffee and Zacapa 23. I couldn’t discern any of these flavours instead it was a wonderfully balanced smokey and strong drink that soothed the throat. ‘Forever Young’ is inspired by The Story of Dorian Grey and is served behind a mirrored vessel with opium-scented incense. With eucalyptus, Grey Goose and maraschino as ingredients, it is refreshing and intriguing with a citrusy edge.

‘Perfume’ is a simpler drink, a winner for girls wishing to try something interesting but delicious. The Ketel one and Lillet Vetiver based cocktail is topped with an edible flower and perfumed paper. If you want to sample the menacing and tropical looking skull ask for an ‘Aqui Estoy’ which is part of the fruity and refreshing group.

We experienced a thrillingly delicious evening of cocktail mastery. Artesian Bar continues to experiment and explore cocktail creativity and definitely deserves the title of top cocktail bar.

More information here: www.artesian-bar.co.uk

Elixir Tonics and Treats, Manchester

Deansgate is an area of Manchester I didn’t explore enough while at University there, my new discovery of Elixir Tonics and Treats last month is proof of that. This cocktail bar is an emporium for keen cocktail drinkers, with great presentation, allure and drama. This de luxe establishment is plush and indulgent inside, though as the name suggests this bar is aiming to evoke feelings of intrigue, with shelves of old bottles, candles and dusty luggage!

On a Saturday night in February, it was full to the brim, and seemed to be thriving off the popularity. We sat in one corner of the venue and watched groups of friends squeal as bartenders delivered cocktail after cocktail. It is a smooth operation here and the staff certainly know how to please a crowd. The birdcage concept is a favourite with regulars – a delicate pretty white birdcage is filled with coupette glasses with cocktails of your choice, and arrives at the table alight with a sparkler, a piece de resistance.

The man you need to find at Elixir is Andy – a master mixologist and magician behind the bar and a friendly comic host: he made our time at Elixir fun and exciting. He serves us a couple of rounds of delicious drinks. I still can’t decide whether the Love Lace Martini looked or tasted better… a very sweet drink, similar to a Pornstar martini, with an accompanying shot of Prosecco and lemon sorbet. Presented on a platter adorned with colourful flowers, and an edible doily on top it looks too good to drink. Saints and Sinners is a good choice too, a punchy fruity concoction made with Manzanilla Sherry, Limoncello, gin and grape syrup, finished with a gold leaf sugar rim and a grape skewer. The attention to detail is impressive at Elixir, every drink arrives dressed to thrill.

Slightly tipsy and ready for dinner, we left the delectable and delicious Deansgate bar as more guests arrived to enjoy the Tonics and Treats that fuel the stylish Manchester crowd.

More information on Elixir Tonics and Treats here.

Many thanks to Manchester Tourist Board for their help with this trip, more information here.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with Virgin Trains.

Typical journey time between London and Manchester is just 2h 7m on one of the state-of-the-art tilting trains, six days a week. Engineering works slow things down a little on Sunday mornings, but by lunchtime they’re operating services – at 2h15m – just a shade slower than Monday to Saturday. Trains every 20 minutes, six and a half days a week.

Booking in advance and travelling off-peak is the best way to get great deals – including some fantastic First Class bargains. Single fares start at: Advance Standard £12.50  and Advance First £38.00, book here.