Sugar skulls, tequila slammers and cocktails set alight – Mexican bar, Arriba, has become one of Congleton’s hidden gem hotspots.
Located on Lawton Street, around the corner from sister venue, Rumba, the slammer bar offers a whopping 45 tequilas as well as eight mezcal’s on the menu.
Arriba was set to open in March 2020, which was delayed as a result of Covid – they were able to officially welcome customers in September – 175 days after originally planned – before closing for the second national lockdown in November. After a short stint over Christmas, the bar was forced to close again until May, with daily Happy Hours Wednesday to Sunday.
Inside, the dimly lit venue has sugar skull and tequila murals painted by The Mural Masters, with neon cactus lights and industrial bulbs lighting corners of the room. Above, Havana Club rum tins house illuminated bulbs – look closer, and you’ll find trainers dotted around the ceiling. What might seem like a bizarre decor choice is actually based on legends that suggest the shoes mark the location of gang territory, synonymous with Mexican drug rings.
I ordered two How Tequila Zombies, which it the best Happy Hour value for money, priced at £9.25 per drink. The twist on the classic Zombie features Altos Plata tequila, El Jimador Blanco tequila, El Jimador Reposado tequila, cherry brandy, Wray and Nephew rum, pineapple, grapefruit bitters, lime and agave. It comes served in a handmade candy skull glass with half a lime filled with a sugar cube which is set on fire. Top tip: don’t add your paper straw until the flame dies. The boozy cocktail is super smooth – with the same amount of alcohol as a good Long Island Iced Tea – and the trick to the sweeter taste is down to the bartenders mastering the mixology, with the perfect amount of pineapple and agave to balance the other flavours.
During our visit, Jake ordered a pint of Corona, which you can also have served with an Altos shot for £6. I also ordered a house Margarita, served Tommy’s style with Altos Plata tequila, agave and lime on the rocks with a salt rim for £8. You can also have them served frozen or flavoured with pomegranate and apple, strawberry and watermelon or cucumber and elderflower. I love a margarita – it’s one of my favourite cocktails – with the contrast between the sour lime and salt rim, but the flavoured ones offer a sweeter flavour for those who prefer a fruity cocktail.
Speaking of fruity, if you love daiquiris and cosmos, then you have to try an Andele Andele. This Mexica-themed tipple features El Jimador Blanco tequila, peach liqueur, lime, strawberry puree and pomegranate juice for £8, garnished with mint and strawberry. This one is much sweeter than the How Tequila Zombie and the Margarita – but proves you don’t have to be a huge tequila fan to enjoy an agave-based cocktail.
Other cocktails to try include the Strawberry and Watermelon margarita, the Resting Beach Face and the Mango and Passionfruit Mojito.
One of the absolute showstoppers though, has to be the Apricot Smash, made with El Jimador Blanco, mango liqueur, agave, apricot, apple and lime, finished with a bubble of smoke!
Don’t forget to order a round of slammers, which come in flavours rhubarb, grapefruit, cherry and orange. It’s not your average tequila shot, as it features a dash of soda that fizzes when you slam it on the table before knocking it back. These are a great drink to use for the tequila toss game, which sees two players battle to get a ring on a rope hooked onto a hook, moving the drink closer to the losing person until they’re out and have to down it.
Whilst there, make sure you grab a label and a marker and leave a little note somewhere in the bar – you’ll find these scattered around the walls, and even in the bathroom – which has the most beautiful sink basin, by the way.
As of July, Arriba is open Wednesday to Sunday, with Happy Hour all night on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, as well as 5pm to 8pm on Friday, and 4pm to 6pm on Saturday. It’s currently walk-ins and card payments only, with no limit on group size operating at full capacity, which is about 35-40. Enjoy some class 90s and 00s R&B, from Kendrick Lamar to Tupac as the soundtrack to your summer tipples with a tequila twist. I really can’t wait to go back to try more from the menu, and the nachos, of course!