Matt Fox, 24, moved to Belfast in 2013. Having lived in London for four years the Fermanagh man has crafted his trade in a number of top pubs and clubs.
He’s currently the head bartender and mixologist at Filthy Chic in The Filthy Quarter.
If you’re considering a career in bartending here’s Matt’s top tips to success:
1. Know Your Customer
You should be able to easily anticipate their needs. Try identifying their drink preferences (sweet, fruity, potent, bitter, etc) and you can easily recommend something based on this. Appear confident in your movements and facial expressions – it seems like you know what you’re doing (even if you aren’t 100% sure), and don’t be afraid to have some craic with them.
Consider every element of your bar – music, lighting, menus, furniture, glassware, uniform – everything needs to be on point – little details make or break the customer’s experience.
2. Do Your Homework
There are a million drink resources online like DiffordsGuide and SmallScreenNetwork. Read classic and contemporary cocktail books. Look into flavour pairing – walk around the supermarkets and see what cosmetic or food brands are experimenting with. Try and memorise the majority of “classic” cocktails – they are fundamental drinks that every bartender should know and will massively influence you when it comes to creating your own cocktails for competitions or menus.
3. Know Your Product
Research the brands, taste everything behind the bar and understand what qualities each spirit or liqueur brings to a drink.
4. Use The Best Available Produce
Fresh fruit and vegetables. Try making your own bitters, shrubs, syrups and tinctures. Think outside of the box – Chinese supermarkets, health food shops… Belfast has some great spots like Sawyers, Nutmeg, St George’s market and Avoca
5. Practice At Every Given Moment
If you have a quiet night behind the bar try making up something or practice your pour/shake/garnish technique… There’s no easy way to learn cocktails – you need to have the interest and initiative to do your own research.
6. Go Drinking
Belfast has an abundance of quality cocktail bars, get out and visit as many as you can – engage with the bar staff, taste their drinks and swap ideas: for such a small city there’s a very strong cocktail scene here. Visit: Shiro/Rita’s, The Albany, Love&Death, The Spaniard, Muriel’s, Aether&Echo / A.P.O.C, The Merchant Hotel, Sixty6, The Fitzwilliam Hotel
Matt’s Favourite Drinks To Make:
Old Fashioned (probably because it’s my favourite to drink), Whiskey Sours, DarknStormy (for the ritual – in Chic we smoke the glass first and use a few unexpected ingredients – anything with a blowtorch tends to get a good reaction) but also it can be nice to just bang out a quick three or four ingredient classic at speed (The Last Word, Daquiri, Margarita)