Updated: Monday, 24th September 2018 @ 5:48am

Mississippi Blues (Booze) Cruise: Liquorists serve trip to America's Deep South... via Manchester Ship Canal

Mississippi Blues (Booze) Cruise: Liquorists serve trip to America's Deep South... via Manchester Ship Canal

| By David Keane

You could be forgiven for being sceptical about how the Manchester Ship Canal can be used as a (slightly stagnant) stand-in for the Mississippi river – or how Bluesy a trip down it to MediaCityUK could be for that matter.

Yet the Mississippi Blues Cruise manages to bring a little bit of America’s Deep South ‘oop north’ – without the racism and not a trailer park in sight.

The Liquorists have essentially taken their Gincident concept – drinking gin on a canal boat, in short – and served it up with an American twist.

WHISK(E)D AWAY: Bulleit Rye gives drinkers a chance to sample one of the few 95% rye mash whiskies in the world (image courtesy of The Liquorists)

Whiskey (note the ‘e’ there) has replaced the gin, classic Creole cooking is on the menu and toe-tapping Blues played all night. The canal boat is still a canal boat – there’s not much you can do with that.

You’ll be pleased to hear the drink starts flowing as soon as you’re on board. Bootlegger iced teas all round, presented in a fast food drinks carton. Yep, you don’t get more Kentucky than that.



Bootlegger is a prohibition-style grain spirit, often referred to as white dog. Does that still mean whiskey? Almost. It tastes similar but much rawer and with few of the wonderful complexities that has made whiskey so popular. That said, it has some surprising vanilla notes to it.

Yet because it’s not seen the inside of an American oak barrel for a minimum of two years it’s forbidden by US law to be deemed ‘bourbon’. Or something like that. The regulation on this form of booze is particularly complicated and after a booze cruise, it would be foolish to try too hard to understand.

Meanwhile, the delicious smell of barbequed meat has been wafting down the boat from a door that houses one of the tiniest kitchens in the world. Thankfully it’s not long after the boat starts moving that the food is served and you can tuck into the pulled pork smothered in rich barbeque sauce and matched with pickled cucumbers.

STICKY FINGERS: Get some classic Creole cooking down your neck

You’re given a knife and fork but you can choose to bung it all on the bap that comes with it instead – and clean the mess up with your fingers. Presumably this is how it’s done by the Rednecks in the Deep South, so it’s best to be authentic… 

There’s a slab of barbeque chicken and a side of Louisiana-style beans thrown in there for good measure too.

Once the food’s polished off, it’s down to business: the business of booze. On that note, I wonder why the Mississippi Booze Cruise was dismissed as a name?

The Liquorists have clearly done their homework and are ready to take you on a trip through the history of whiskey in America, its journey from rye to corn, and even its integral role in the development of US politics.

THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS: Whiskies lined up for the night include a few rare treats

Yep, if the Liquorists are to be trusted (keep quiet at the back!), the old firewater has had a key part to play in the US we know (and love?) today. You’ll be taken through the Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion, the rise of Prohibition and back out the other side – all the while sipping delightful cocktail after cocktail. History has never been so fun.

And that brings us to the cocktails themselves…it’s only taken us 540 words – but jeez, who’s counting? And yes, you get proper glasses this time too.

CLASSY COCKTAILS: If at first you don't succeed, rye, rye, rye again uses Bulleit Rye Whiskey 

First up after dinner is a rye whiskey mint julep-style cocktail, aptly named If at first you don’t succeed, rye, rye, rye again. Not my favourite cocktail of all time as mint has a tendency to be domineering.

However for this they use Bulleit Rye Whiskey, which when sampled on its own (as the Liquorists kindly provide a sample of each whiskey separately with every cocktail, they’re nice gents like that) it gives the opportunity to taste one of the few 95% rye mash bill whiskies around.

Next is a whiskey sour-style cocktail presented in a champagne flute, combining Bulleit Bourbon with egg whites, peach puree, Maraschino and a cherry for good measure. Delicious.

A Manhattan-style cocktail using Buffalo Trace Bourbon is one of the highlights of the evening and is the closest you’ll get to an Old Fashioned on the trip.

Finally, the Sazerak using Woodford Reserve is a strong finisher, laced with a strong whiff of lemon that cleans the palate.

By this time, the boat is back docked at Castlefield Arena and you’ve enjoyed all the sights of MediaCityUK along the way.

It’s worth pointing out that this is surprisingly enjoyable when you’re out on the water surrounded by the glowing lights of ITV on one side and BBC on the other, like great warring battle frontiers. Perhaps MediaCityUK isn’t just for Jeremy Kyle show hopefuls and Outlet mall shoppers.

AMERICA VIA THE LOWRY: View from the Mississippi Blues Cruise (image courtesy of @dbarber00 with thanks)

Once you’re back on land, the fun ain’t over. Instead, the Liquorists whisk(y) you off to their very own lair #22RedBank for another drink – a Lynchburg Lemonade to be precise – and you can then see out the evening there.

All in all, it’s a great evening. We can’t think of many ways to have more fun with £40 (early bird tickets still available at time of writing) for a night out in Manchester in mid-March – legally anyway.

Get your tickets here.