Stray opened in Mackie Mayor in late 2023 and immediately caused a stir. It’s not hard to see why – this is the kind of cocktail bar you can imagine stumbling across in prohibition-era Brooklyn, a well-kept secret, adored by a select few.
The look is low-key and understated, but there’s a sense that everything is exactly where it’s meant to be – Stray is a place where details matter. Case in point, the pitch-perfect playlist – full of genre-spanning gems, both soulful and tasteful.
It’s a world away from the Magaluf-style vibe of Stevenson Square, but that doesn’t mean it’s elitist or snooty – simply more considered and sophisticated. It’s a place to take a date or impress a visiting mate, rather than a dance-on-the-bar party venue, and that’s exactly what Manchester needs.
The staff have an almost Kuroko vibe, stylish without being showy, laser-focused on the quality and craft of cocktail making. Delightfully, the drinks menu has a Martini of the Week section, which states “This is our creative outlet”. You’re not on Deansgate Locks anymore, Toto, this a place where cocktails are taken seriously.
The ever-changing drinks menu has been crafted with atomic-level precision, with a dozen or so unique ideas, plus Stray’s takes on classics such as the Bloody Mary or Mai Tai, all made with impressively high-grade ingredients. Remarkably, most of these come in around the £10 mark, a good deal cheaper than the luxury bars on the other side of town.
Recommendations? The honey and jasmine amaretto sour is a thing of beauty, as is the vino colada (an elegant blend of coconut-infused rum, pineapple and orange wine), but really, you could choose a drink at random or ask for a bespoke creation and walk, or stagger, away happy.
There’s a time and place for those cheap and cheerful cocktail bars with Del Boy-style concoctions, but it isn’t Manchester in 2024. Stray is all about elegant drinks with a timeless feel – the perfect bar for a modern city.