Bar Profile April 2017 – Bittles Bar, Belfast
Ciaran Bittles of Bittles Bar in Belfast explains exactly why his father’s bar is one of Belfast’s best-loved traditional venues and why it’s a hub for whiskey lovers…
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BAR
My dad, John Bittles opened Bittles in 1989.
He’d been in the trade from he was 14 and his first job was in the Slieve Donard after which he worked in The Morning Star but he always knew he wanted his own place. Good old 70 Upper Church Lane was free. It had been lying derelict and was an absolute state. Bass invested in it to get the place open and running.
There’s always been a bar on that site since 1861. At one stage it was the Dolphin and over the years my dad has tried to go further with it, to maintain a presence in the bar scene and retain a sense of tradition. We’ve tried to stay rooted in that culture.
WHAT ARE THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS/INITIATIVES TO DRIVE SALES IN YOUR BAR?
Working alongside Joe from Dillon Bass and Phil from Belfast Taste Tours would be one of our newest initiatives. The Whiskey Walk starts off with us where we will serve up a Jameson and Lime.
We also offer bespoke whiskey tastings so if someone contacts the Facebook page looking for that kind of event we are only too happy to work with them.
WHAT MAKES IT AN IRISH WHISKEY BAR?
We are always on the ball when it comes to the Irish whiskey releases. My dad has always managed to source new releases even before suppliers hear about it. He doesn’t miss a trick. Staying on top of the stock is important and I think my dad’s character attracts a lot of people. He would be one of the oldest old school pub owners still knocking around.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST-SELLING BRANDS, AND PERSONAL FAVOURITES, IN THE IRISH WHISKEY CATEGORY?
My personal favourite is Green Spot Château Léoville Barton Whiskey – it’s got a lovely richness to it. I also like of Redbreast Lustau, it’s almost like drinking Christmas cake. I was really blown away by Method + Madness too.
Our whiskey flights are, excuse the pun, really taking off! Some of the Powers stuff is starting to move fast and I think by offering the flights we’re really starting to encourage people to try different things.
HAVE YOU ANY FUTURE PLANS TO DEVELOP THE BAR?
We’re hoping to open something of a specialist whiskey room. We gutted out the kitchen a while back as we don’t serve food anymore. We’ve made it more presentable – it would be a similar operation to Willie Jacks’ Friend at Hand – a specialist whiskey shop. My dad has a lot of old label stuff that’s not quite on the market so with this we’re appealing to collectors and people who have a real interest in whiskeys.