Drinks International

Aaron Wall: Life as a Homeboy

Sitting down for a pint of Guinness with a frontrunner in Irish hospitality is a great craic, but there’s far more to Aaron Wall than just the stereotypes of a Dubliner.

His reputation since opening Homeboy in London’s Islington has exploded, but given his 6ft 5in frame, it wasn’t throwing Martinis which got him into hospitality, but throwing his weight around on the door.

In 2002 Wall worked as a bouncer while he was at school in Dublin before getting behind the bar for the first time aged 19. “My first night I totally blagged it but made about £80 in tips. I never looked back,” says Wall, while attempting to ‘split the E’ on his pint of Guinness (@split_the_e) with his first big gulp.

The Irish giant quickly moved on to The Octagon Bar at The Clarence Hotel in Dublin, where he learned the basics of making classic cocktails and the joy that hospitality brings him. “I then got an opportunity to work in Paris in an Irish bar called The Coolin when I was just 20, I couldn’t believe it.” The Coolin was named Best Irish Bar in the World (outside Ireland) by the Irish Times and Wall was responsible for its first cocktail menu. “I loved my time in Paris, but I think I’m the only person to move back to Dublin to stop drinking so much.”

His next big move was to win his local leg of the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup and represent Ireland at the global nals in New Zealand. This opened up the opportunity to work as a Bacardi brand ambassador for the following three years.

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“A lot of young bartenders forget the brand ambassador role isn’t just a rock star lifestyle – it’s tough work and can get lonely. I also think I got to a point where I wasn’t learning anymore and I missed making people smile from behind the bar.” This lead to Wall helping open Opium, a huge, three-floor venue in Dublin among various other spaces he helped launch throughout his busy early years.

“I love opening bars, as long as you’re ready and prepared they’re great fun.” In 2016 he visited London Cocktail Club founder and longstanding friend JJ Goodman for what he thought was just a catch up drink, but which turned out to be a job interview. A couple of months later he moved to London as training and development manager for LCC. His leadership helped the chain get nominated for the Top 10 International High Volume Cocktail Bars at Tales of the Cocktail in 2017.

Following this success he was approached by Callooh Callay to take over as bar manager, an offer he couldn’t refuse. “The first couple of months were really tough because it was a totally different environment to LCC – it was much more intense, but I really wanted to define what Callooh was all about.” Wall’s momentum continued as he got the bar nominated in the exact same list as LCC but for 2018.

But the next big step in his journey is again thanks to Goodman, who suggested he take on a venue LCC had put up for sale. He successfully pitched his business plan to Goodman while the LCC owner leaned against a lamppost having a cigarette, and the next challenge was to raise funds. This is where his then housemate and now business partner Ciarán Smith, put his faith in Wall’s ability to create a world-class neighbourhood bar.

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“Suddenly everything was happening, even my dad came over and helped with the floor and we built the bar together,” adds Wall. “I’m so proud of how it turned out and, although my old man had some differing views on the decor, I think it turned out all right.”

Now, having been commended for Best New Bar at the Class Bar Awards 2020 and boasting a plaque stating Best Pint of Guinness in London, there are plans for a new kitchen, and even new venues. That’s right, Wall plans to roll out Homeboy across London and even further afield. So whether you’re a Dubliner living abroad or simply after great modern Irish hospitality, when you walk into one of Wall’s Celtic venues you’ll feel like a homeboy.

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