HENNESSY X TRISTAN BRENNAN
At the heart of the flourishing hospitality industry in Northern Ireland is a talented group of creators and innovators; mixing things up, creating new concepts and game-changing experiences.
We shine a light here on Belfast bartender, budding blogger and photographer, Tristan Brennan.
Mixing things up in Northern Ireland’s hospitality scene.
Where do we find you now and what's it like?
I’m currently managing The Bowery and The Crafty Vintner Tasting Room on Belfast’s famous Lisburn Road. The complex has a long history as one of South Belfast’s most popular bars and is somewhat of a social institution. It has everything you need ranging from breakfast, lunch and dinner and drinks, wine and cocktails.
What drives your passion to bartend?
The creative aspect of bartending is definitely one of the things that fuels my passion for this business. Creating menus and designing drinks around different themes and events is a lot of fun and gives me the opportunity to flex my creative muscles.
Other interests outside of the bar scene?
I have two main interests outside of bartending – food and photography. I love to cook and try different styles of food along and photograph them. I set up the blog just before the pandemic began and its sole purpose was to help support local businesses, showcasing the food offerings that our little city had to offer. When the pandemic kicked in, I began cooking and experimenting in the kitchen more and more – this was definitely a creative outlet that that helped me get through the past and year.
I also took up cold water swimming during the pandemic. It has helped me stay focused and completely lifted my mood when hospitality was forced to close. I still try my best to get out for a cold dip in the morning, but it is starting to prove slightly more difficult now that hospitality is back open.
How did you get into bartending? Any advice for others?
I got into hospitality when I started collecting glasses in El Divino, a local nightclub, when I was 16. From the first day I walked into the venue and experienced the atmosphere, I knew exactly that this was the path I wanted to peruse a career in. Since then I’ve worked in all aspects of hospitality - nightclubs, pubs, cocktail bars and fine dining. I even took a stab at being a chef for a while, but decided I was better suited out front with the customers.
The advice I’d give to anyone starting out in the hospitality scene is to have fun, work hard and greet every person you meet with a smile.
What would you say to those who see hospitality as a pit stop, or not a full-time profession?
We get a lot of young people coming through while they wait to head off to uni, or are just waiting until they can get what they think is a ‘big boy or big girl job’. In reality, hospitality is a ‘big job’ and the opportunities that come are amazing and can take you really far in life. I’ve seen that first-hand.
What, if any, differences have you noticed in customer behaviour since hospitality reopened?
Cocktail sales have definitely increased. I think that’s because people have sickened themselves from their DIY cocktails at home and just want the professionals to make them.
You've made some amazing drinks in your time, where do you look for creative inspiration?
When coming up with new drinks, I look at what is popular and what the current trends are in the market. I use this information, along with my creative mindset to try and create something that the customer will enjoy. Social media plays a massive part in how people share their experiences around food, drink and hospitality – it’s so intrinsic to our culture now, so I try to make my drinks as photogenic as possible.
Tell us about your Hennessy cocktail…
During the day, The Bowery has a coffee shop / bistro vibe and in the evening, it’s transformed into a wine tasting room/cocktail bar. I thought it would be cool to interpret both aspects of the business into my drink using both red wine and coffee.
In the drink, I have paired Hennessy with cherry liqueur, Malbec, cold brew coffee, mixed with homemade Orgeat and egg white, using grated nutmeg as a garnish. I love the sweet nutty flavour that you get when you drink Hennessy neat, so I knew it would work perfectly in this drink.
If someone was coming to enjoy Belfast hospitality for the first time, what three places must they visit and why?
Definitely The Crafty Vintner Tasting Room; one, because you will find me there, and two, the drink selection is amazing with over 500 wines to choose from along with cocktails, cheese boards and live entertainment. Margot is the second bar I would tell people to go to; it's a cool, quirky underground cocktail bar. The third would definitely be 39 Gordon Street; one of my favourite bars in the city, the atmosphere, drinks and food are all fantastic.
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 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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