Last weekend saw our return to Hulme Community Garden Centre where we opened the doors once again to our pop-up bar 'The Gardener's Arms'. I'd missed out on the fun last year and was looking forward to serving up our latest batch of Moss Cider, cider lollies and the ever popular Moss Cider Mojito, made with our 100% Mancunian to The Core apple juice.

In a slightly out of character way I arrived to set up on the day and felt remarkably calm and relaxed. Usually I'd have been fretting all morning (and night) and stressing about all the little things, worrying that something was going to go wrong (it did, but that comes later). Dave, our host, served me up a fresh coffee which I must get round to returning the mug for, sorry Dave! I set about putting up our bar list and vinyl sticker posters (see above). It helps that Joe has contacts in the vinyl trade!

So what had made the difference to my general demeanour? I can only put it down to the fact that I now have Friday's off from my 9-5 job as a Studio Manager/Graphic Designer so all the prep was done the day before. We'd chosen to run a limited stock as we overdid it on the local beers last year. And I've now watched enough Lord Sugar to know that it would be better to 'smell what sells'. So we ran a two keg bar featuring local brew 'Directionless' from Red Willow and Manchester Bitter from Marble. Joe had picked these up a few days earlier to allow them to settle and I'd dropped off a freezer and fridge the day before so all that was left to do was the final shop.

Joe's mate Jonz (a keen brewer) was our third pair of hands on the day and his expertise and friends in the biz came in handy when we (he!) broke the keystone on the bitter keg. That's the wooden bit you bang the tap into. I told you something went wrong. So there I was, bar open, while Joe and Jonz nip out for a new keystone. It wasn't a biggy as it was still early doors and there was no mad rush that I couldn't handle.

So I used the time to set up our till, which today consisted of our trusty green cash box and an iPad with our SumUp app and dongle allowing us to take card payments. Thankfully it also ran all the cash sales through the till. We were doing a 50p refundable deposit on the the glasses and the first few customers got away without paying that (we know who you are). The clever little app lets you add new items in seconds though so that was a quick fix. Can't recommend it enough to all you small traders out there. It's not the quickest thing-ame-jig out there and I would't recommend it for busy environments as it can take a minute or two to process a transaction. Especially Visa payments as the customer needs their smartphone and 3G signal to finish the payment. MasterCard was much quicker and that must be who they have a better deal with as I just needed the customer to sign on screen. But for ease of use and cashing up at the end of the day it's a doddle. 

Being based at the garden centre had it's advantages especially when it came to the mint we needed for the Mojitos. One of the staff prepped us a massive bunch that kept us going all day and the smell around the bar was amazing. We had much fun muddling our way through the day and despite our cider selling out first, followed by the cider lollies, the sunshine had people craving our fresh juice Mojitos more than anything and the non-alcoholic version was great for the kids (and pregnant wives!).

The one thing I did notice is that we definitely now have a few super-fans (you know who you are!) who come to most, if not all, our events in support of our little local product. We know it's not the world's best tasting cider… yet! But I love that people are enthused by our war on wasted apple and that they consistently want to come back for more. It was nice that we had a bit of variety on offer too as not only did we have our sharp, dry still cider available, but we had a limited supply of slightly sparkling bottle-conditioned stock too. The latter having a nice effervescence on the the tongue. 

We got the balance right this year and turned a small profit that will no doubt help with our rent that we'll be paying in the near future as we look to move on from our shipping container setup in Hulme.

Who knows when 'The Gardener's Arms' will fling wide again but if you fancy hosting us then give us a call and for those that want it, here's out Apple Juice Mojito recipe.

Moss Cider Apple Mojito
5-6 Fresh Mint Leaves
Raw Cane Sugar Cubes
1/2 Lime - Sliced into 3-4 wedges
25cl (or more!) of Havana Club Rum
100ml Moss Cider 100% Apple Juice
200ml Soda Water
Ice Cubes
Sprig of Mint to Finish

Place the Ice, Sugar, Limes & Mint in the bottom of a glass. Muddle Together. Pour Over your Shot. Fill the glass with Ice. Pour over the apple juice then top with Soda Water. Add more ice if needed and then garnish with a sprig of mint.