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Drinking with: Cottonopolis

Situated in Manchester’s burgeoning Northern Quarter, the Japanese-inspired Cottonopolis Food & Liquor stands as both a proud nod to the city’s industrial heritage and as a key player in the North’s blossoming cocktail culture

The Ace in the Hole: The Food Menus

Split into the categories of ice, fire, oil and steam, the Cottonopolis food menu has a visual flare that more than matches the charm of its open kitchen. From the light, fresh zest of yellowfin tuna sashimi, to the subtle spice of the Loch Duart Salmon, to the weightier decadence of Goosnargh Chicken Yakitori in rich, peanut sauce, the menu offers variety and virtuosity in equal measure. And for the nightowls, Cottonopolis even offers a down-and-dirty, ‘Japanese Junk’ menu from 10pm.

The Award Winner: The Idioms Menu 

Simple, stripped-back, and sophisticated by design, it comes as little surprise that Cottonopolis’ idioms menu has just won Imbibe Magazine’s ‘avant garde drinks list of the year’ and ‘best overall drinks list of the year’. 

By basing the menu around Japanese Yojijukugo (traditional, four-character, idiomatic pearls of Japanese wisdom) the Cottonopolis team have taken the elusive art of cocktail-naming to new heights. And with only 13 carefully-curated drinks on offer, the menu boasts a confident balance between boundary-pushing easy-drinkers and innovative, straight-up sippers.

Featured Libation: The Weak are the Meat the Strong Eat

By all accounts, Cottonopolis’ The Weak are the Meat the Strong Eat is both a testament to the bar’s experimental edge and a display of its pan-Asian inspiration. True to its name, it’s a cocktail that comes on strong in the best of ways: It’s a weighty, whisky-forward and duck fat-washed concoction that boasts bite and balance. The blend of Nikka from the Barrel and blood orange liqueur offers a bracing first contact that’s quickly mellowed by the fruity, floral finish of Byrrh and Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Driving the savoury splendour of the whole thing home once and for all, the cocktail even comes with a pork crackling garnish.

Get the Round in: Gethin Jones 

Quickfire questions answered in the time it takes Cottonopolis’ General Manager to finish teaching me how to use chopsticks

Tell us a little about the idea behind the name of the bar

It’s a nod to the city’s history more than anything. Back in the eighteen hundreds, Manchester was nicknamed ‘Cottonopolis’ for its central role in the cotton industry. It’s the reason that most of the buildings around here have such a similar vibe to them; they’re almost all Grade II listed buildings.

Who designed your (now award-winning) menu?

The team and I designed the drinks, but the menu design and its illustrations are down to the wonderful talents of graphic designer, Jack Kimberley. Check out his other work online ( and on Instagram (@_Jackkimberley). Thank me later.

What are the challenges that come with being a high-volume bar?

It’s important for us have the freedom to be experimental with our menu without getting too niche. But it’s also important for us to be respected by our industry peers. The challenge lies in finding that balance. We strive to stay welcoming and approachable to less seasoned drinkers whilst also contributing something new and exciting to the drinks industry. 

What’s in the pipeline over the next few months?

We’ve just introduced our twist on a Sunday Roast. Think Wagyu Beef rump, Karaage Chicken and Kurobuta pork, all washed down with some seriously top tier wines that you can now enjoy by the glass thanks to our Coravin Club.

And finally, what’s your house shot?

Plantation Pineapple Rum, no contest. It packs a punch but still has the flavour and the nuance to keep things polite and enjoyable.

Words by Will HALBERT