Bar Profile September 2016 – The Dirty Onion, Belfast
Tim Herron, general manager of The Dirty Onion & Yardbird
Tim Herron, general manager of The Dirty Onion & Yardbird, talks to HRNI
TELL US ABOUT THE BAR
The Dirty Onion is located in one of Belfast’s oldest buildings and has a rich history and a story to tell. From 1921 to 1991, The Dirty Onion was a bonded spirit warehouse and housed many thousands of bottles of Jameson whiskey, which is why we honoured this association with a Jameson Barrelman statue in our beer garden. The focus for the bar is local craft beer, whiskey and traditional Irish music.
We have worked closely with An Droichead Irish music school to offer entertainment seven nights a week, ranging from trad sessions to bodhran lessons which we offer free of charge. We feel this combination of entertainment, carefully chosen drink selection and a fantastic beer garden offer added value to the customer and an experience to remember. Also not forgetting our rotisserie chicken restaurant upstairs Yardbird which serves marinated chicken in a relaxed environment, with speed of service and affordability.
HOW DO YOU DRIVE SALES?
It is one thing having a great selection of drinks, but another having well trained, knowledgeable staff who can sell and promote the product. We have been focusing on Irish whiskey lately with tastings of new and existing ranges to help the staff fully understand how whiskey is produced and what flavour profiles are associated with different styles.
We also incentivise product sales; this month we are promoting Jameson Caskmates. I also introduced a Boilermaker menu which is a beer and whiskey pairing menu which has been a great success. I worked closely with beer and whiskey experts to choose pairings that complement each other and am excited to be working on volume two of this in the coming weeks.
WHAT MAKES THE DIRTY ONION AN IRISH WHISKEY BAR?
When we opened the Dirty Onion, I was keen to establish a reputation as being a good Irish whiskey bar, not only because of our historical association with Jameson, but because Irish whiskey is enjoying a massive resurgence in the global market. Although there are other great Irish whiskey bars in Belfast, I wanted to pick a range that was extensive but had some alternative offerings. One way in which we help Irish whiskey stand out in the bar is by specifically price labelling them all on the back bar. This helps inform the customer what the price range is and takes away any awkward conversation of asking different prices.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST-SELLING BRANDS, AND PERSONAL FAVOURITES?
Best selling is Jameson. That isn’t a surprise considering how much it has grown in the last five years – I think them promoting it as a mixed drink with ginger ale and lime helped propel the sales massively. Next after that would be Redbreast 12 year old, a superb pot still whiskey.
I like a lot of whiskey and have a few personal favourites – Green Spot has always been my go to whiskey. I do however enjoy some of the new innovative whiskies out there – especially ones being aged in different casks. I love Teeling small batch, the rum cask offers an interesting sweetness and aroma. Similarly Jameson Caskmates, which is aged in stout barrels, offers a surprisingly smooth finish and a flavour like no other.
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