REVIEW: Gin Festival at Victoria Baths, Manchester

Last week, I was gifted two tickets to the Manchester Gin Festival, where I was tasked with the massive chore of taste testing gins from small craft distilleries using locally foraged botanicals, right through to exotic examples of contemporary gins in fantastic flavours. I’ve been to beer and cider festivals before, even music festivals, but never a gin one so I was extremely excited as soon as I heard about it, getting press was just a bonus.

Rae at Manchester Gin Festival

On arrival, we were handed our very own gin glass to keep, along with a detailed map/gin guide and a special wristband. Most people only dream of a world where a tap of your wrist would pay for a G and T or gin cocktail, but that was the reality for anyone who attended the gin festival in Manchester. Thanks to the clever cashless system, everyone received a contactless wristband on entry which they could top up as and when they pleased to pay for any of the premium gins on offer.

Gin festival wristband

Is it ever okay to mix your drinks?

Admittedly, I don’t like tonic so covering this event was mainly for the benefit of my plus 1, Eve, a G and T lover with a strange tendency to mix it with coke. Unless it’s mixed with elderflower and lemonade, or somebody else is paying, I usually steer clear of it in fear that I’ll be judged for not ordering tonic. However, Eve was determined to change my mind and this was the perfect place to taste different gin and mixer combinations.

Schweppes sponsored the event, so their 1783 premium range, made with fresh, all-natural ingredients was the obvious starting point. Tasty flavours on offer included Crisp, Light and Cucumber Tonic Water, Ginger Ale and Salty Lemon, so after asking the knowledgeable bar tenders their opinions, we went wild.

My first drink of choice was a strawberry and vanilla flavoured gin, best served with lemonade or Schweppes Light and Cucumber Tonic Water. I adventurously opted for the latter and regretted it instantly. The tonic overpowered the flavour completely so I felt I could have had any old gin with it and not tasted any difference; from that point, both Eve and I stuck to lemonade.

Gin Festival Filter

We sat in on the Tinker Gin masterclass, where Dan gave us tons of information on what makes gin gin, going into plenty of detail about how their Spanish batch gin is lighter and more fruity than your typical London Dry. He was witty, knowledgeable and completely honest, which made the gin samples taste all the more refreshing.

We were a bit weary for our next drink, so I opted for the Sovereign Spirits Apple & Blackberry Liqueur that Gina from CultureBean had recommended in her blog post. Thankfully, it tasted absolutely divine. The fruity mixture of berries and apple reminded me of a cider; but unlike a Strongbow Dark Fruits, it was light and ridiculously easy to drink. If we ever happen to get any decent weather in the UK, it would be the perfect drink to sip in a beer garden on a hot summer’s day. Eve tried a plum concoction and enjoyed that too, or maybe it was just the lemonade?

After a couple of drinks, priced at £5 each, we explored the different zones including lively bars, a generous and informative brand room, plus a creative cocktail bar all under one roof. We also admired the beautiful venue itself.

For those of you who don’t know Victoria Baths, it’s a listed Edwardian swimming pool and Turkish Baths complex that’s undergoing some restoration work. The pool may be gone now, but none of the charm has. From the exposed brick, to the tiles and original signage, it’s a photographers dream.

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Have you been to the Victoria Baths or a gin festival before? Let me know in the comments below! I’m very curious if people actually know this is a thing because I had no idea.

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