Words by: Jane Ryan
Leeds-based gin geek Tom Coates barely has two nights a week at home as he tours the country on a mission to promote Ged Feltham, Jake Burger and Paul Lane's London Dry gin. Launching into bartending post-university he's always kept a hand in the industry despite a sojourns but there's nothing he loves better than a gin cocktail with a cheeky shot of tequila on the side.
I was at Leeds university studying psychology when I feel in love with Trio. The bar is still actually there today, part of Arc Inspirations group and was an award-winning bar at the time. I started drinking there and eventually got a job.
There I worked under fantastic people who really laid down the basic bar work for me. People such as Declan Mcgurk, who's the current Bar Manager at the Savoy, I learnt a lot from him. I stayed around till graduation and after university I left Arc to travel around Asia but came straight back into bartending, back to Leeds.
I'd heard about the Leelex group from the owner of the Star, Ged. They have a few bars in Leeds, Jake's Bar, Oporto and Neon Cactus. It was there I found a love for tequila. It was really the first great tequila bar outside of London inside this cool Mexican restaurant.
After being back a while I decided to leave the industry and pursuit a music career for a time. I was putting music to ads and TV shows and then did a trip around America. When I came back I returned to drinks, doing a year at Love Drinks in sales, I must have been Kirsty's first member of staff.
After that year I started to miss being more involved in bars. I still wanted to bartend and then I heard Ged was working on a new gin brand and I jumped at the chance to get on board. I had worked with Hayman's gin at Love Drinks so I knew a fair bit about the category.
I've been with Portobello Road Gin for two and a half years so far. My day to day life is constantly travelling, I really live my life on the road. But I like meeting new people and every bar is different, every bartender is different.
Gin is obviously my drink of choice. Tequila I still love as a shot but wouldn't have it long in a cocktail. Ideally it's a gin sour with a shot of mezcal on the side and I'm content. If I want a lazy Sunday you can usually find me at Shears Yard Restaurant in Leeds for great food and wine.
Sometimes I jump behind the bar and help out when I’m back at Leeds, pop out some cocktails. I try to make drinks as much as possible but they normally don't need me. I also take Ginstitute sessions when Jake is able to and have a lot of fun playing around with the gin.
The benefit of always travelling is that I know great bars in pretty much all of the UK’s cities. Liverpool is the place that's really coming of age lately. I love Berry & Rye, Salt Dog Slims and 81 Limited there.
My main two influences would be Nick Fox from Leeds who is a great, a really likeable character and Ged who is the founder. I've learnt a lot about business from Ged. Despite being on the road constantly I try to get back to Leeds twice a week, it still has such an exciting bar scene which is continually growing.