Ah, the Whiskey Jar. You are everything an unsuspecting tourist might expect from a Northern Quarter bar and that is why we can never truly love you.
Unassuming entrance? Check. Exposed brickwork? Check. Quirky furnishings? Check. Aloof bar staff? Check. Pricey beers which come in either generic premium or craft flavour? Petr.
Coming along in the wave of bars that saw the far more interesting Kosmonaut and El Capo expand the NQ out beyond Stevenson Square to Tariff Street (much to the delight of estate agents across Manchester), the Whiskey Jar was considerably smaller when it first opened, the long narrow shape making it feel a lot like you were having a drink in your mates converted warehouse apartment. However, that shape was and still is part of it’s downfall.
A few steps away from the bar were the toilet doors which wafted in the smells of poor night out bathroom decisions throughout the evening. Thankfully, they rectified this fairly quickly and for this review we sat in the curious square booth where the toilets used to be. Unfortunately for the Whiskey Jar this vantage point provides prime viewing of it’s other flaw. We were there for a couple of hours (during which time we were served the wrong beer and forced to change our mind when the bottles of Kona Longboard ran out… not great for the start of a Friday night) and in that time we despaired at how slowly people were getting served. It wasn’t particularly busy but the queue was often three people deep and that was without many cocktails poncing their way over the bar.
The position of it doesn’t help, it’s not at the end of the room, it’s not a part of the social fabric of it… it’s just shoved in the corner. To be fair, the downstairs bar is considerably more substantial and much better thought out, but we’ve only ever been down there for private parties and it’s never going to become a night-ending destination like it’s neighbours.
This may all sound a little harsh. If you are a first time visitor to Manchester and want to experience a taste of the Northern Quarter, you could do worse than the Whiskey Jar. Plus we’re sure it’s a considerably more interesting place for avid whiskey drinkers (if not, something is seriously wrong). For seasoned NQ veterans it will always be the copy and paste template version of what the area is threatening to become. If you value character, innovation and soul, look elsewhere.
The Whiskey Jar
Food: Bar snacks, pies, cheese and meat boards
Drinks: Whiskey, lager, ales, cocktails, other spirits
Related City Centre establishments: Kosmonaut, El Capo
Bongo rating: 5/10