White Lyan, Hoxton

As the prohibition bar trend begins to recede, cocktail purveyors look for new ideas to tempt customers. White Lyan is certainly unlike any other bar I’ve visited… award-winning mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana has created a bar which does not stock nor use perishable ingredients, omits ice and avoids all branded products. For his first solo venture he has challenged himself to a tricky task of concocting brilliant cocktails without any of the usual components.

The drinks are thoughtful and clever, most of the hard labour is done before the doors open… bottles of refined and rebuilt spirits sit scientifically in the fridges behind the bar. It is experimental but understated mixology, and it is certainly a lot calmer behind the bar without all the ice crushing and lemon zesting. When it comes to substituting the usual elements of ice, sugar, egg white and citrus, Ryan has an answer: a fragrance atomiser which adds zing to some recipes and a small electrical mixer used as a thickener to recipes that need it. There were moments when I thought, wow these cocktails are great, but wouldn’t they taste even better with the forbidden fruits.

The no frills, simple venue has retained many of the previous pub’s features, the focus is on the quality of drinks rather than a fancy interior. It is a notion I appreciated and understood. The price point is noticeably more reasonable than the competitors: cocktails are £6-9 each. The Moby Dick Sazarac is already a firm favourite made with rye, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe-soaked rice paper. It is a tasty and exceptionally well balanced drink; I found the floating particles of ambergris (sperm whale secretion) rather distracting… but apparently it is crucial for adding texture and body. The Lyan Club Cocktail was rather more delicate – a lovely combination of Mr Lyan Gin, turmeric and red apple shrub, and soda. Off menu we tried various other wonderful concoctions, and I can recommend the Gimletto, Shurbo Tandy and the White Lyan take on a Whisky Sour.

Located in the less trendy end of Hoxton, you have to look hard to find White Lyan. I’ll let you decide whether Ryan’s creations are crazy, cool or clever; one thing’s for sure… everyone is talking about this new cocktail concept bar in London and I think it deserves the hype.

More information here: whitelyan.com

Under New Management, Manchester

Sometimes, I try to recall where my obsession with cocktails came from. Initially it was a fruity and fun alternative to beer, it soon became the drink of choice for my group of girlfriends at University, and eventually, 300 or so cocktails later, I grew fascinated by the science and culinary creative skill mastered to create the most complex of drinks. Years later, at the age of 26, I have moved on from mojitos and love trying concoctions that push the boundaries and test my tastebuds. Trying drinks all over the world it is interesting to see how different nations use their preferred spirits and seasonal ingredients. As food becomes more experimental, the cocktail scene seems to follow with innovative techniques and crazy flavours used to create the most modern and eccentric cocktails yet.

Like most trends, the London scene dictates and leads the rest of the country. Great cocktail bars can be found in every borough of the capital, and there is always somewhere new and exciting to try. When I was at University in Manchester a few years ago, the choice was limited and felt unimaginative. Revisiting my student home this month, I felt inspired and surprised by the new cocktail connoisseurs introducing fine and fantastic drinks to the city.

Under New Management (based at the former Corridor Bar) may be a little distance from the high street, but is well worth seeking out. Secretly located in an unlikely spot down a deserted alleyway, this bar is not easy to find and having only opened in November, is still in its infancy. Yet to be redesigned the bar has begun serving it’s menu despite its unchanged appearance. The friendly and laid back owners, Andy and Brodie, are master mixologists with a drive and passion for making deliciously unique cocktails. With decades of experience between them they develop and offer an ever-evolving menu of inventive but very drinkable cocktails.

The menu is a single A4 page filled with retro writing naming and describing the 14 drinks of the moment. Each one costs just £7.50, half the price of the equivalent in London. This menu changes completely every 6 weeks, so regularly will have to be brave about trying new things! Using their own potions and a range of carefully selected ingredients and flavoured bitters UNM create exquisite, unusual and seriously tasty drinks. I could have chosen any drink on the menu, they all sounds appealing to me… Balanced and creative drinks with a touch of curiosity, wit and charm.

After a round of addictive home-spiced popcorn our first round of drinks arrived. I let Brodie decide our fate and he presented us with two of his favourites from the most recent menu. Salford Cinema Club is a delightfully creamy but light drink, the mix of bourbon and popcorn flavours to me felt beachy, not dissimilar to a piña colada. Awkward Date was a winner, a twist on the classic Sidecar this date, walnut and hazelnut combination is balanced with cognac and lemon and served straight up, with a slight spicy kick from the powdery topping. For our second round the Some like it Hot was a genius interpretation of a margarita with a Malden sea-salt rim and a powerful tequila fuelled liquid. The Dandy Lion was comically served with a lion mask and was a longer more refreshing drink.

The guys at Under New Management cater for cocktail fans willing to traipse a little further in search of masterful mixology. It is without doubt my new favourite place for a drink in Manchester, and the bar alone makes me want to plan a return trip to this city.

More information on Under New Management here: twitter.com/corridor_bar

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.

Old Mary’s, Lancaster Gate

Old Mary’s is my new favourite cocktail bar. This spooky underground cavern is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Old Mary… one thing is for sure – the cocktails are supernaturally good.

We were lucky enough to have the main barman at our disposal and as we sat at the cosy bar he conjured up a range of cocktails from a much-anticipated new experimental menu.

First we tried the luminous green ‘Rackety Flashpool’ made with a lump of candyfloss and ornamented with flame-toasted marshmallows, it was too good to sip and was gone within a few minutes. The ‘Blasting Burning Blizzard Flame’ was just as delicious, made with an impressive fire flame show of cognac, Bourbon and black spiced rum, and flavoured with a cinnamon stick. The second “secret” round of cocktails was just as exciting but what the ingredients were I cannot tell you!

Hotdogs and antipasto boards are available for hungry guests needing something to nibble on while they sip their drinks. I can’t wait to return to Old Mary’s and try more of their incredible cocktails – who knows, maybe a ‘TMM’ cocktail will make it onto the menu soon.

More information here.