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Epernay is an intimate unassuming bar focusing on an all round drinking experience for their customers. With one of the largest champagne lists in the country, over 100 strong, their highly knowledgeable and skilled staff will endeavor to find a Champagne to suit everyone, from little known small houses to established names, in all manner of sizes. Or perhaps, let them spoil your taste buds and indulge your curiosity with a list of over 80 delectable cocktails, ranging from refined classics to the unique and the contemporary. Whatever you are looking for; Champagne, atmosphere, delicious wine or a multitude of prestigious spirits, Epernay has all of the ingredients for a perfect evening.
Épernay Champagne Bar describes itself as Manchester’s best kept secret and it’s easy to see why. It feels like a romantic and sophisticated oasis away from the bustle of Deansgate. Champagne, that most evocative of libations, is very much associated with ostentation and wealth and this is reflected in the art-deco inspired bar: candles burning in wax-encrusted champagnes bottles, the beautiful exposed-brick bar, and the outdoor terrace make it one of the most intimate drinking spots in Manchester.
While our friendly waitress brings over a carafe of water and some complimentary peanuts, we dive straight into the menu which begins with an informative introduction to Champagne. The first thing to notice is the sheer variety on offer: champagnes by the bottle range from £36 for the Ayala Brut Majeur to £2,000 for a Jeroboam of Louis Roederer Cristal; however if you’re not in the market for a whole bottle there are a generous 13 champagnes offered by the glass, including a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. Couple this with a list of over 80 cocktails.
Naturally, Épernay’s cocktail list revolves around their champagne, and if the most experimental you’ve ever got is adding a dash of cassis then your taste buds are in for a surprise. It would appear they use their house Champagne, Ayala, in the majority of their cocktails, and we certainly had no complaints.
Being tequila-lovers and excited by the idea of mixing it with champagne, we opted for the Jalisco Flower (£7.50) which combines El Jimador Blanco with grapefruit and elderflower to wonderfully refreshing effect. We also chose a couple of the sweeter combinations: Take It Sloe Honey (£7.50) – which combined Hayman’s sloe gin with honey and vanilla. This was deliciously sweet – like an upgraded Kir Royale – but one was enough to quench my thirst for a pre-dinner dessert! Although The Ron (£7.50) – another champagne cocktail – was also sweet, the bitter notes from the Giffard dark chocolate liqueur ensured the palette wasn’t overwhelmed by the brown sugar and cherry liqueur.
If Champagne doesn’t take your fancy then you’re sure to find something to please in their extensive selection of classic and signature cocktails. As hardened cocktail drinkers, we generally go for the classics but thought we ought to try one of their own, fruitier creations. The Spiced Pear (£7.00) mixes Kraken Spiced Rum with Xante Pear cognac, and came beautifully garnished with a pear fan (I always approve of cocktails which count towards my five a day!). It had a boozy enough hit to take the edge off the sweetness of the fruit, and was finished within a matter of minutes!
Staying true to our purist cocktail lovers calling, we thought it only polite to sample their classics. In my mind, a bar can be judged on how well they make those that have stood the test of time, so we chose a Gin Martini and a sweet bourbon Manhattan (both £8). The waitress took her time to explain how these drinks could be prepared, and offered us a choice of spirits for each. Judging by the standard of these cocktails alone, this place could do well to show others in the trade how to make such foundations of mixology.
With its low level lighting, sophisticated jazz tunes and expertly-made drinks, I’m glad to have stumbled upon Épernay Champagne bar. Now that the secret’s out, I will be back time and again.
Anna & Jamie