Over the centuries, London’s historic role as a global mercantile hub has made the city a thick porridge of diversity with people coming from all over the world. Nate Brown, co-founder of the London Bar Consultants and the recently-opened bar Merchant House, may not come from too far, but it’s certainly London’s mercantile history that brought him there and that drives his passion for all things drink.
A native of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, Nate moved to London a few years ago after completing his Masters in English including a thesis in novel writing in Manchester. He launched London Bar Consultants with his Co-Founder, Lewis Hayes, in 2012 to assist with the launch of bars and the development of cocktail menus around the city. From there, they set up Merchant House to spread their endless knowledge of drinks to the masses.
You’d be pressed to find a bartender in the UK more educated in the history of drink than Nate. We suggest you pay him a visit at Merchant House for a masterclass. Your cocktails will never taste the same again.
1. You’re Irish. Why are you drinking gin instead of Guinness and whisky?
I love the history of gin. It’s fascinating. But I’m an equally big fan of whisky. With Merchant House, we explore the history of gin and rum but our second venue will be whisky-based. At the moment I’m into my roots - drinking 12 Year Redbreast Irish whisky.
2. You’ve worked in Ireland and the UK. What’s the primary difference between English and Irish pubs?
That’s something I think about a lot, actually. I find Irish pubs to me more convivial. Everyone’s talking to each other. You can just walk in by yourself and have no problem finding people to speak with. In English pubs, everyone sits with their backs to one another. It’s a difference between hospitality and service: Irish pubs are generally more hospitable where English pubs tend to focus more on service.
3. What’s your favourite music to mix cocktails to?
I love jazz in a bar. It gives a great atmosphere to a place. But otherwise, give me some Bruce Springsteen, who I was fortunate enough to see in Cardiff last year, and going back to my Northern Irish roots, Snow Patrol. I try to see them with my brother whenever they’re playing back home.
4. Where’s one place you’d like to drink cocktails that you haven’t been to yet?
New Orleans. It has such a rich history of drinks. Stories of New Orleans keep cropping up in my research. I’ve always envisioned it as a jazzy, funky, rough place - would love to visit!
5. What’s your favourite thing to do in London when you’re not mixing drinks?
I like to cycle a lot. My business partner, Lewis, and I are really into our cycling. Next year we’re cycling to Paris. Cycling and reading - that’s pretty much me in a nutshell.
Recently, an artificially intelligent robot that mixes drinks was created. Are professional bartenders threatened by technology?
We’ll go to war! Just kidding. There’s no risk at all. Sounds like a vending machine to me. What the robot won’t understand is that it’s not about the drink, not about what goes into the glass. It’s about the experience, how you feel when you’re in a friendly place when you’re at the bar speaking with the bartender in a room full of people. It’s about human interaction.