It’s always a nice surprise to receive an unexpected invite to an exciting event. Through Twitter, I was thrilled to get a tweet from @TGIFridaysUK saying I’d been chosen to attend their Live Art & Cocktails event at the Royal Exchange Building venue to celebrate their new range of cocktails. A night showcasing 100 cocktails as 100 unique works of art, housing three of Manchester’s talented artists and a chance to mingle with others over alcohol in a cool venue? I RSVP’d faster than you could say ‘bartender’!
I must admit, I’d never been to a TGI Friday’s branch before and had preconceptions as the type of place you would go for a family meal out with younger cousins…How shocked I was when James and I entered the vast, classy American-style eatery on Thursday night straight after work. Walking past the magnificent central bar, we were lead upstairs to a second bar by one of the friendly waiters and greeted with a smile and introduction.
As the Project Producer at Telegraph Hill, Tom Harvey, explained, “We didn’t just want to stage another blogging event, where people turn up and may not write about what they’ve seen. We wanted to really engage our attendees and representing the cocktails as pieces of art is how we decided to do it.”
A fantastic concept from the beginning, we got an immediate sense from the fun, cheeky and very knowledgeable bartenders that this wasn’t just a case of pouring drinks all night; rather, a chance for them to share their passion for the art of cocktail making and to showcase the personalities of the drinks. One thing I must point out (and something which Tom was keen to emphasise) was that between them, the bartenders know how to mix around 700 different cocktails, an impressive feat for anyone’s memory!
The new additions to the menu saw some unexpected twists inspired by American sweets and desserts: Popping Candy Strawberry Margarita, Passionate Rose and Lemon Meringue Pie. Allowed three complimentary drinks each, I opted for the latter while James went for the first…All I could say to both (yes, as a generous couple we allowed each other to take a sip of each other’s) was, ‘WOW’. With a sweet tooth and a love for anything zesty, this creation was literally like a liquid version of the pudding, the perfect blend of tartness, lemon tang and sweetness. Meanwhile James’ was a tingly variation to the classic drink, the novel addition of popping candy made it an immediate winner.
By this point, the top floor was buzzing, packed with fellow bloggers enjoying the quirky creations while sampling delicious food taken from the new tapas menu. A personal favourite, alongside the likes of Meatball Sliders and Chicken Skewers, were the Blackened Salmon Tacos (see the full menu here)…just divine. James and I both said we must come back very soon to try more of the great food on offer – again, dashing my misjudged preconceptions as the brand delves into this newer, more grown-up direction.
Back to the drinks. As we were deciding on what to request for our own customised cocktails, James and I got talking to another lovely couple, blogger Kate and her boyfriend Tom, who were ridiculously similar to us – scary but very amusing! While the boys opted for chilli-based drinks (only for the brave!), Kate and I were served delicious Amaretto inspired zesty drinks by Dave, who looked after us for the rest of the night.
It was great to talk to the guys behind the bar and find out how they got into the art of mixology, while showing off their tricks and moves as they served up a whole range of weird and wonderful unique creations to the now-lively crowd. For our last drink choices, James went for a strong, Whisky creation which Dave named very appropriately as a ‘Smokey Bandit’, while a chocolate-inspired cherry liqueur one for me was simply ‘Cherrylicious Dusk’; this personal twist made the drinking aspect even more fun!
Bringing the new cocktails to life were Caroline Dowsett, who painted a romantic portrait inspired by the Passionate Rose drink, while Millie Connors demonstrated how to make a lemon meringue pie entirely from felt! Erin Echo, who, true to the ‘popping’ nature of the final drink, created beautifully illustrated Polaroid portraits for us guests based on our Twitter photos. As a geek on the social platform and where many know me from, this is one of the most special things I have ever received!
The verdict? An event to promote the new range of cocktails and TGI Friday’s as an appealing venue for food with family/friends, or classy drinks before a night out, I can certainly say I was extremely surprised. Along with a brilliant playlist, great company, having a laugh with and learning from the bartenders while enjoying awesome food and drinks, plus of course the encouraged social media activity to coincide with the brand’s expansion onto Instagram, I could not have asked for more.
A huge thanks to the TGI staff and bartenders, members of Telegraph Hill, plus all the guests who made it a wonderful evening and to James for being my plus one and also loving the night – we will certainly be back soon for more cocktails and food!.