Where did you grow up?
We both grew up in North Belfast in an area called Ardoyne.
What did you aspire to be when you grew up?
I initially, and thank god it didn’t work out, wanted to be a Geography teacher. I loved knowing how things in the world worked from a Geography perspective. I done well at school but decided to take a year out to make sure I was taking the right path and that’s when I totally fell in-love with cocktails and the liquor industry in general.
Howdid you find your way into wine and spirits?
My mum and dad basically told me to f**k off when I asked them for money when I turned 15. They said if I wanted something in life I had to go out and get it or work for it. I got a part time job as a bar back in the local boozer which my cousin ran called The Hunting Lodge. I instantly fell in love with the hustle & bustle of it and also the social aspect that came with the gig. It never really felt like work. One of the bar managers at the time said the previous bar back was better than I was and that’s when my attitude of being the best was initiated. I was always brought up with the mantra of if you’re going to do something do it right. This coupled with being the best that I could be all started in this bar.
I then followed my cousin around some of the bars he went onto run but decided to break away and work at a bar called Tatu. The program was ran by a former pupil of Sean called Kieran Breen. I was blown away with what he was doing with the cocktails. A lot of which was directly translated from the program in place at The Merchant. Kieran started taking me to a program called The Connoisseurs Club ran at The Merchant by Sean and Steven Pattison of Drinksology and talked a lot about Sean. They brought over the biggest names in the world and thats when I knew I could make a career out of this but I had to work with the best in order to fully realize my ambition and potential. So that’s exactly what I did. I joined The Merchant at 18 years of age and never looked back.
Where do you find inspiration for your drink recipes?
All of my drinks were originally inspired by historical recipes. Between me and Sean, we have over 500 historical books in our library. So I’d call the style contemporary interpretations of historical recipes. However, these days with Jillian Vose at the helm and all of the team submitting recipe proposals, the style is much more fusion style. Modern flavor applications. We focus on odd flavor marriages that work and integrate those marriages into mixed drinks.
How do you feel about winning World’s best bar 2015 at the highly acclaimed Spirit Awards?
Obviously, we are absolutely delighted. We’re over the moon that we finally realized our ambition upon moving to New York. It was the quest of becoming the Worlds Best that kept us going during the dark days before the bar opened. We’re delighted for the team of staff that stuck with us through thick and thin, the investors that put their money were their mouth is, our PR agency, our design team in Belfast and our social media guy Ben Schaffer. I’m also really happy for our community of loyal regulars. They feel part of it also and so they should. In saying all this, it’s the end of one very tough and challenging chapter of our careers and the beginning of another exciting new one. We’ve a lot of very exciting projects in the offing and we’re already focused on improving everything we do at The Dead Rabbit. Our arrival point, winning the award, is our next destination point. We will not rest on our laurels.
Name your FOUR favourite cocktails from your bar menu?
‘Pub Thug’,which contains cinnamon bark cordial and Meletti Amaro, ‘Testament’ which uses extra virginolive oil infused Vida mezcal along with lemon and orange sherbet, ‘False Prophet’, a refreshing mix of cucumber and honey dew melon infused gin with Dolin Blancand ‘Wanderlust’, a creamy and spiced mix of Merlet Piore Liqueur, aromatic bitters and Jameson Black Barrel.
What interesting trends/themes are going on in the spirits world? What’s on your radar at the moment?
I’d say the return of low alcohol drinks, lighter styled cocktails. A few years ago most of us were serving cocktails that you could only have 1-3 of before you had to move onto something lighter or go home altogether. We, and many other, are focusing on creating cocktails that give you longevity for your night. Sessionable cocktails I’d call them.
What is your most indispensable cocktail ingredient?
Irish Whiskey of course.
What is another of your favourite tipples?
Guinness & our World Famous Irish Coffee.
30 Water St