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Belfast-based bartender Emily Doherty is a creator and innovator in the Northern Ireland hospitality scene. Here, she tells us more about how she got started and how she's now mixing things up, creating new concepts and experiences.


Mixing things up in Northern Ireland’s hospitality scene.


Where do we find you now and what's it like?

I currently work as a cocktail bartender in Berts Jazz Bar, which is part of The Merchant Hotel. The venue is modelled around the post-prohibition jazz bars of 1930s New York, with a restaurant that takes inspiration from classic French bistros. The bar features a classic cocktail menu where inspiration is drawn from the famous jazz cities of the world, such as New Orleans. This is Belfast’s only dedicated jazz bar, with live music played seven nights a week. Customers visit Berts for a 5-star dining experience accompanied by live music, exquisite service, and cocktails to match.


What drives your passion to bartend?

My passion is driven by experiencing new things. I also love meeting new and interesting people. Bartending is my creative outlet and it allows me to accomplish both these things.


Other interests outside of the bar scene?

I have lots of outside interests and a creative passion and drive certainly motivates some of them; cooking and baking for a start! I’m also a keen photographer and love exploring nature on walks, hikes, and camping trips. All of these things have been important outlets over the craziness of the last year.


How did you get into bartending? Any advice for others?

I first got into hospitality when I was 15; I began working in a hotel at the weekends while I was still at school. I started doing the breakfast shifts and later I worked in the restaurant. After a while I progressed to working in the hotel’s nightclub, where I got my first taste of bar work. I eventually moved on from this hotel to Babel in Belfast, where I worked on the floor and, after a while, was moved to the bar, where I learned a lot about cocktails.
The best advice I can give to anyone just starting in the industry is to be yourself, always take pride in your work, find your own style of service but take the advice of those who have been in the industry for years - they can teach you invaluable lessons.


What would you say to those who see hospitality as a pit stop, or not a full-time profession?

Hospitality can be a full-time career, which can have many great perks and lead to exciting opportunities. It is a great industry to work your way up in and can allow you to work with loads of great brands, attend all kinds of amazing events and learn from brilliant people from all over the world. It’s an exciting industry where passion, energy, creativity and drive are celebrated and rewarded.


What, if any, differences have you noticed in customer behaviour since hospitality reopened?

I have noticed that customers are more understanding since hospitality has reopened. I have also noticed that customers are more educated on cocktails and have developed their own knowledge. Over lockdown I think a lot more people were experimenting with making their own drinks at home and learning about drinks, which has made them more open to trying new things. We get a lot more requests for drinks we rarely got asked for before.


You've made some amazing drinks in your time, where do you look for creative inspiration?

I get my inspiration for drinks from all kinds of places. I read books on cocktails and different techniques that can be used and I follow lots of YouTube and Instagram cocktail accounts. I’d say my main inspiration from drinks comes from simply visiting local shops and looking for fresh produce and ingredients.


Tell us about your Hennessy cocktail…

The cocktail that I created used 50ml Hennessy, 30ml Mango Iced Tea, 15ml Caramel Syrup, 25ml Fresh Lemon Juice, served in a highball glass and topped with soda water. I got my inspiration for this drink while doing some research into New Orleans, where iced tea is a very popular drink due to their warm climate. The mango iced tea pairs well with the caramel and lemon to create a very refreshing and balanced drink.
What I like most about Hennessy is its versatility; it can be enjoyed neat, over ice, with ginger ale or in a cocktail, meaning that it can be adapted to suit anyone’s tastes.


If someone was coming to enjoy Belfast hospitality for the first time, what three places must they visit and why?

Berts Jazz Bar at The Merchant, for a 5-star dining experience accompanied by twists on classic cocktails, alongside the feeling that you’re in one of the famous jazz cities of the world. The Pocket Café located on Upper Church Lane for a relaxed breakfast, casual brunch and great coffee and Rattlebag Cocktail Bar - a relatively new venue in the heart of the city centre - for classic cocktails executed a little differently from the rest.


Hennessy is proud to partner with some of Northern Ireland’s leading individuals and collectives; mixing things up, making their mark, near and far.


Hennessy V.S

Hennessy Very Special (V.S) is one of the most popular cognacs in the world. Matured in new oak barrels, Hennessy V.S is bold and fragrant. Its beguiling character is uniquely Hennessy, a timeless choice with an intensity all its own. Hennessy V.S offers toasted and fruit notes, with a rich, clearly defined palate and a welcoming exuberance.

Hennessy V.S expresses its vibrant and dynamic personality through unique artist partnerships and annual limited editions. Easy to enjoy, it’s a perfect cognac for high-energy occasions and sharing the moment.

The round and robust flavours of Hennessy V.S make it very versatile and ideal for any cocktail possibility, from classic recipes and sophisticated cocktail creations to easy mixed drinks.