The founders of leading drinks agency Sweet&Chilli are to open their own bar, Nine Lives, promising “sublime cocktails, warm welcomes and a killer soundtrack”.
Allan Gage, Emma “Hutch” Hutchison and Tom Soden (pictured) are setting up their new venture in a Victorian basement in Holyrood Street, off Bermondsey Street near London Bridge, taking inspiration from their frequent work with the world’s best bartenders.
The bar menu at Nine Lives will be curated by Tom and his consultancy team at Sweet&Chilli, including recipes using herbs grown in the bar’s upstairs garden. It will be inspired by many years behind bars and will be split into the categories of Shorts, Talls, Tarts, Lowriders and Loops.
Loops are drinks where the team have re-used key ingredients and given them a new lease of life. For example, the bar will use the skin, oils and juice of lemons in its cocktails but will also redistill the pith to produce essential oils for use in liqueurs and hand soap. The bar team also balances the pH of the discarded pith, skin and pulp and composts it, using it to fertilise their backyard herb garden.
The name Nine Lives refers to an “ethos of salvation: unveiled treasures, nothing wasted, everything lovingly sourced and selected with intention”. Recipes are reinvented from past favourites, ingredients are repurposed to reduce waste, disposables are removed from the bar’s operation, even the embroidered staff uniforms have been discovered in London’s best vintage shops. The bold intention is to drive a positive and sustainable movement within cocktail culture.
Two of the signature cocktails will be the Moby Dick, made with a coconut oil-washed grain whisky plus a salted caramel syrup, and the Ômu Kooler, combining Campari with a watermelon and cucumber “home’ade”, or homemade lemonade.
Nine Lives is as much about the music as it is the drinks, with an eclectic and lovingly compiled soundtrack. The sound system at Nine Lives is re-purposed event industry hardware and oozes a rich sound, which only comes from high-quality acoustics.
Hutch, who is Sweet&Chilli’s creative director, is leading on the design of Nine Lives. The subtle entrance, ceiling high balustrade and warm scented lobby will welcome guests into a bar “full of intrigue and texture”. It will feature hanging plants, woven lamp shades, shuffleboard in the games room, marbled fascias and copper bar surfaces.
She is drawing inspiration from her studies in film and, like the cuts of a movie, feels her designs should pass by unseen, she notes. “The surroundings will wrap you up, welcome you in, and blend seamlessly to let the story of your night unfold.”
Due to open this summer, Nine Lives will have a capacity of 100 and be open Mondays to Saturdays from 5pm to late.
Allan added: “Nine Lives is a total passion project. It’s a blend of all the things that make Sweet&Chilli tick: superb service, tasty drinks, mad styles and music we love. Just a place we want to bring mates to and the proud result of lives spent behind bars.”
Allan, Hutch and Tom founded Sweet&Chilli in 2002, building it into an international business specialising in event production, cocktail research and drinks creation. It now has offices in Sydney and Los Angeles with a team of leading drinks consultants, trainers, event managers, designers, creative producers and administrators who work across a wide range of projects.
Sweet&Chilli acts as consultants to some of the world’s biggest drinks brands on new product development, promotional activity and other marketing initiatives. It also manages premium bar operations at events large and small as well as bespoke experiences for their private clients.
It is also committed to educating bar professionals about their craft, offering full training to bartenders and teaching bar owners how to maximise success in their venues.