The Sandinista Group has officially opened the doors of its newest bar, Blind Tyger, in Manchester. Situated below Sandinista, the subterranean bar is styled as a pre-Prohibition-inspired drinking den, following in the footsteps of Blind Tyger’s first location in Leeds.
With the launch of Blind Tyger, the Sandinista Group amps up its offerings in Manchester for the first time since it opened Sandinista off St Anne’s Square in 2011. Imbibe visited the venue ahead of its 21 March soft launch to meet Lee Jones, Sandinista Group’s business development manager, and get an inside look at his plans for the new location.
‘The Blind Tyger in Leeds is a few years old now, and we wanted to do more with the mythology of it and what it was meant to be,’ Jones explains. ‘At the same time we were thinking about what we wanted to do downstairs [in Sandinista Manchester]. We had ideas for new concepts but wanted those to be standalone in venues, so we decided in the end to take something that was well formed.
‘It gives a nice duality to this building as well – it’s a different side of drinks and a different side of service [compared to Sandinista].’
The basement bar, previously fitted out in Sandinista’s relaxed, rock ‘n’ roll-inspired décor, has been transformed into a low-lit, plush, moody lounge with Victorian vibes and no shortage of insect taxidermy.
The drinks also take major cues from the 19th century. Jones developed the 15-strong cocktail list by taking a deep-dive into the ingredients and serves of the era, a topic he discusses enthusiastically.
‘You’ve got the birth of the Industrial Revolution, a time when ingredients were starting to move around and spirits in general were starting to be made well. You couldn’t really drink the water, and there were a lot of fortified drinks,’ he says.
‘It’s mostly just to take inspiration from, because if we were to do faithful reenactments of those drinks they wouldn’t be very tasty. We say, “What element do we want to pull from that?” and turn it into something more familiar.
‘For example, a Syllabub was basically cream mixed with cider, or a spirit or wine, and spices. So for that we’ve done a clarified milk punch with gin and aromatic wine.’
The menu boasts a core range of nine drinks – the same offering as in Leeds – as well as a rotating list of six themed serves. The first selection of rotating drinks will draw its inspiration from medicinal remedies. There will also be a heavy gin focus, with a free-to-join gin club offering members hidden menu serves and discounted prices, and an emphasis on higher-end spirits.
‘I’m not a fan of having bottles just sit and not move, so we’re also going to have a section of the menu called “The Liquor Cabinet” focused on eight top-shelf spirits that we want to shout about. The rest of the back bar will be a bit more versatile and accessible,’ Jones comments.
‘Ultimately, we just want to deliver a really good drinking experience. We want this place to be approachable.’
Blind Tyger is now open in Manchester.