Ben Davies

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Words by: Jane Ryan

The UK's Northern Bacardi Legacy champion

I grew up in a very rural area of North Wales and I've always worked in pubs. I was 16 when I started waiting in a local boozer and the moment I turned eighteen I was straight behind the bar.

The goal was always university, but I stated bartending part-time alongside. Inevitably that part-time job turned full-time and something had to give. It got to the point where I was falling asleep in lectures of trying to memorise cocktail specs. Most people might have chosen to keep studying but I decided to stay behind the bar.

It might sound strange but the second I stepped behind the bar I knew that was what I wanted to do. I fell for bartending hook, line and sinker.

I suppose it is the social aspect that has kept me enamoured. I love making new friends each night, seeing regulars come back and the community environment of the industry.

Suburbs opened on the 9th of December 2013 and I was part of the opening team. It was really just as a favour to my friends who were starting up their own place, it was never my plan to stay in Chester, rather I had my sights set on London.

Helping out turned to falling in love with what we were creating together and as the bar evolved it felt like the place I needed to be.

The bar is a neighbourhood hangout, and gets treated by the locals as their regular haunt, much like a traditional pub. Which might seem strange outside of a major city, and it certainly wasn't initially accepted as such. But once everyone got their heads around a little classic cocktail bar things went smoothly.

It feels like as our customer's palates have developed, so have we. The menu started out very basic but one thing about this business is you never stop learning. We don't have a huge trade clientele, it's all regular drinkers and it can be a challenge just convincing them to try egg white. But I believe it's all about trust, once you build up that relationship getting them to be adventurous is a little easier.

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Our bar is renowned for its gin collection so I enjoy working with that spirit a lot. My anytime favourite cocktail is a White Lady but I also enjoy a Last Word, which still has that light citrusy element.

I started getting into competitions when I was 19 and I absolutely adore them. It was petrifying at first but a good friend of mine, Jamie Jones, pushed me into it and now I try and do as many as possible. Turns out I'm quite competitive. And there are certain benefits to the competitions as well, winning the Toussaint competition got me to Tales of the Cocktail this year.

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London has been something I've toyed with, there's obviously an appeal and the thought of advancing your career but then there's the romance of Chester, of flying the flag for cocktails here. It doesn't get the recognition it deserves. The UK tends to be focused on the south and the love needs to be shared around. There are great bars outside of London.

History was always my thing, and the Club de Cantanerios is my favourite story in booze history. That idea of creating a community in the bar scene and focusing on why you're creating a drink and the aesthetics of it is something I want for Chester.

For me, there's nothing better than sitting at a bar watching the theatre. And the final chapter for every bartender is their own place which is where I want to end up. If I had to open my bar tomorrow it would be in Chester. A small, quaint spot with great drinks. I think every bartender secretly loves getting slammed on a Friday night but I also enjoy those quieter nights where you can take time with customers and focus on your drinks a bit more.

I don't know how this will sound on paper but since I first started behind the bar I've had this gut instinct that this is where I want to be. And I want to be the best.

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