Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience at The Richmond Hackney?
Five years ago I moved to London from Ireland to do the only job that ever felt natural to me. I learnt my trade from Carl Brown at Dishoom before getting approached by Nick Strangeway and Mark Hix for Hix Soho. I really matured there, learnt the basics of seasonality and was exposed to flavours and concoctions I never knew existed. When I met Margaret about The Richmond I was ready to take control of a bar where I could release drinks I was proud of under my name. For me, experiences start at the front door and everyone from the guest to the kitchen porter are in on the drink. It’s been amazing because the team I’m surrounded by.
Do you have a certain philosophy when it comes to what you put in your drinks?
Every restaurateur and his dog harps on about seasonality but what more could you want. Dealing with seasonal ingredients is like being gold dust merchant. It’s a beautiful thing knowing your favourite fruit is about to come in and you only have a few weeks to use it the best way you can. Aside from that it’s about target audience not ego. It’s not about me, how good I can mix or how many infusions I have on my bar. It needs to appeal. It needs a purpose. It needs to be damn good.
We heard that you want drink menus to be just as highly regarded as food menus, so how do you create the drink lists for the restaurant?
A strong menu needs time and thought. I always try prepare four months ahead of the upcoming season to give me time to work with the bartenders and chefs on anything from a reduction to a bitter agent. It involves a lot of tasting, maybe too much sometimes. It’s important not to be rushed. The rush starts when the check comes.
What is your signature cocktail and what is the cocktail that everyone has to try at The Richmond Hackney?
My signature drink is the ‘Shady Pines’. Tequila based with Douglas fir, cider vinegar, fresh lemon and cherry liqueur. It really does surprise people. On paper it doesn’t make sense. A bit like me. Everyone needs to try our ‘Sage against the machine’. Besides the pun, it has bursting caraway flavors mixed with fresh lime & sage to kick start the evening.
What would you say has been the most memorable experience in the industry?
Honestly. Too many. I love my industry.
What predictions do you have for bar-tending as an industry in general? Would you encourage someone into a bar-tending career?
It’s growing and I’m meeting new bartenders on a weekly basis from all over the world . I think it’s becoming more respectable to be a barman the same way there’s a new reverence for chefs. I was encouraged into it and have absolutely no regrets, so yes, I would encourage someone to do the same. I love going to a cocktail bar and seeing the barback working hard doing his duties, and then I come back six months later he’s making me drinks. That makes me very happy.