HENNESSY X HANNAH FERRIN
Hannah Ferrin is a bartender at Belfast’s quirky Ulster Sports Club. Her passion for music, history and community fuels her love for the industry, with a little storytelling and song thrown in for good measure…
Meet the singing Belfast bartender with a passion for people, arts and culture.
What can people expect when they come to Ulster Sports Club?
Years ago, Ulster Sports Club used to be a member's club. It was basically an old dive bar that you had to be a member to get into. It’s now one of the most popular music venues and bars in the city.
It’s quite deceptive. When you walk into the front bar, you’d never know the venue sprawls back as far as it does, with different rooms, bars and spaces revealing themselves as you travel through the venue.
Much of the old décor has been retained, with old photos of snooker players, George Best, weird mirrors, and bulletin boards still adorning the walls – it’s kind of like stepping back in time. When you juxtapose all this old stuff with a DJ playing techno and drum and bass, it’s both a weird and a wonderful thing.
Plus, we know a thing or two about drinks.
Where do you get your inspiration for your drinks?
We change our menu seasonally and we’re always looking for new, innovative ways to reimagine them. Hennessy cognac features frequently on our menu; it's very popular with our clientele, but also our resident and visiting musicians.
We take inspiration from our clientele and DJs. I like to pay tribute to our customers and also the people that make the venue what it is. We actually named one of the drinks last year after our resident DJ Jamie Nelson - he's a big fan of Hennessy!
What’s the bartending community like in Belfast?
The biggest reason I love and continue to want to work in this industry, is the sense of community here in the Belfast scene. Everyone looks out for each other – that support system and the friendships you make along the way, make all the hard work worthwhile.
You meet so many great people; hear so many good stories; gain so much knowledge. And I don’t just mean about drinks and bartending, but about how the world works, too.
Getting to mix with and know people better, is probably the main reason why I love this industry so much. And ‘the craic’s always 90’, as we say here in Belfast.
What outside passions fuel your creative process?
I'm extremely inspired by history and by music. I love bringing these two passions together.
I surround myself in music in my job and personal life. I am always at gigs; I also play the guitar, write and cover songs. It's really easy to find inspiration whenever you're a bartender, because people come in and tell you their stories all the time. I play and write music for myself, for fun. I enjoy it but don't really take myself too seriously. I also like to know what my favourite musicians drink, and why they like the drinks that they do.
How would you describe the Belfast cocktail scene?
I would say the scene here is unique in the sense that we don't take ourselves too seriously in Belfast - I think that's one of the biggest things that sets us apart.
That’s probably due to the city being so rich in culture. Inspiration is so easy to find here. In comparison to other cities, I would say our bartenders draw a lot of artistic influence from our complex history, and our community; that inspires progress and I think that has helped to drive the bartending scene forward here.
We’re not afraid to do our own thing.
Do you draw inspiration from cocktail trends elsewhere in the world?
Absolutely. I love to follow weird and wacky bars that are doing things you wouldn't find here, then taking inspiration from these concepts to come up with ideas that might work here.
I enjoy reading books by other bartenders; it's kind of like getting into someone else’s mind and seeing things from a new perspective. Working with brands like Hennessy is great because it puts world-class talent on your radar, heroing and showcasing innovation and creativity in the industry.
Cultural differences can birth great ideas. I always say to people, whenever you're away on holiday, go to a couple of bars that you wouldn’t ordinarily go to – it broadens your horizons and expands creativity when you step outside of your comfort zone and consider a fresh perspective.
Any favourite cities come to mind?
The first place that comes to mind is Prague. It’s full of like extremely unique and creative people. Bartenders and bars, stuff you wouldn't find anywhere else in Europe. It’s a really creative city.
They use eccentric spirits there and stuff you'd never think of using. I was only there for five days, but I learnt a lot. I just kept going back to the same bars saying, ‘tell me more, I want to know everything.’
The bar that I went to most is called the Hemingway and obviously, it's named after Ernest Hemingway. He's inspired a lot of cocktails. So yeah, it's extremely culturally infused and a really, really fun city to visit.
What advice you wish someone had told you years ago?
Ask questions. Be curious about everything. Once you're passionate about something, it'll translate through to your work. Just watch the people around you, take a little bit of inspiration from everyone you know, and then put your own spin on things.
Even going to your local bars can teach you so much about attitude, how to act, basically just how to be a great bartender. And not just on the drinks knowledge side of things, but personality-wise too.
Career highlights, aspirations?
Building a team and having an opportunity to inspire, influence and motivate my colleagues and peers has been a real higlight. Helping people around me to develop and improve drives me, it makes me want to keep doing what I’m doing.
In the future, I'd love to look back on a career that has taken me all around the world but ultimately, I would love to come back and open my own bar here. To continue having a positive influence and drawing on that passion for community, to drive the social and drinks scene forward.
Hennessy is proud to partner with some of Northern Ireland’s best bartenders; mixing things up, making their mark, near and far.
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.
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