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All the best: 'I love to chat to regulars and try cocktail recipes'

By Kerry McKittrick

Published 08/08/2016

Nathaniel McAuley
Nathaniel McAuley

Nathaniel McAuley, the 27-year-old bartender, was one of the three winners of the prestigious Hennessey Connoisseur Challenge last year, as well as being named Bar Person of the Year at the Hospitality Ulster Pub of the Year Awards. He works in Muriel's and lives in Belfast.

My best moment

When I won the Hennessey Challenge last year the three of us were sent to Cognac in France for training. We stayed at the Chateau de Bagnolet which is where Richard Hennessey lived with his wife and where we stayed up drinking some very fine Cognac. We were only there for three days, but it felt like weeks because we had such an enjoyable time.

My best song

Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. I'm a poet too - I have a master's degree in creative writing. I remember being very young and getting this song free in one of those CDs they used to give away with the newspapers. There was one line in that song: "As she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China." When I heard that I knew I would spend my whole life trying to write a line as good as that.

My best way to relax

I actually do love making cocktails. I love quiet evenings in Muriel's where I work because I can chat to the regulars and try out different recipes. When I'm not working I head to Madden's Bar with my guitar for the live session there and a pint of stout.

My best advice

Breathe. Or at least take a breath. It's been given to me by lots of different people in lots of different situations. I think my mother first gave it to me though. I tend to rush and panic things and try to get stuff done too quickly.

My best job

I had a teaching residency in Maryland in the States a couple years ago working with teenage kids which I really loved.

My best movie

Gangs of New York is a favourite. I love historical fiction and the way writers can create a story from titbits of historical knowledge. I also love Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson so to have both of them in the same film is an added plus.

My best gift

A priest friend gave me a set of old rosary beads. We used to work together and it was a really nice gift.

My best achievement

Winning the Hennessey Connoisseur Challenge last year was fantastic. I won the Hospitality Ulster award just after that so it was an amazing couple of months. I didn't know what to do with myself.

My best book

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I read it in France when I rented a house with some other writers for a few weeks. It was a really sad story about one man's struggle and it's stayed with me ever since then.

My best buy

My best buy was when a couple of years ago when I bought a thing called a bandura in Ukraine - it's their national instrument and it's 52-stringed harp. It's very old and I imagine someone could play it if they were able. I had a go but now it hangs in my house.

Belfast Telegraph

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