Nine Lives on creating London's Best Zero Waste Bar
Sustainability is a topic on everyone’s minds, but when it comes to sustainable drinks, nobody does it better than Nine Lives. Located within the colourful creative scene of Bermondsey, underneath the Victorian Basement of No 8. Holyrood Street, Nine Lives is the passion project of Tom Soden, Allan Gage, and Emma Hutchinson. Founders of specialist drinks agency, Sweet & Chilli, avid music lovers, and of course, zero-waste pioneers.
In conversation with the team at Nine Lives and Sweet & Chilli, we chat about their incredible salvaged sound system, the amazing roster of DJ’s that play every single night, and how ‘they painstakingly have given a s***’ about every item that sits on their menu’ at Nine Lives. We also talk about their Less Ordinary spots in London and beyond, and that special little something that holds all these places together. What special sauce sets Nine Lives apart from the rest? It’s that Nine Lives has a certain quality that feels both new and familiar, something that makes you proud to show your mates this new little gem you’ve discovered. With a place as cool as Nine Lives, surely it won’t be a hidden gem for very long.
Nine Lives has a zero-waste ethos — how does this ethos translate to your day to day?
Tom: We strive to be as sustainable as possible. Everything at Nine Lives, from the furnishings to the sound system, are reclaimed. Being completely sustainable isn’t instantaneous, it’s a constant evolution assessing how you can be more resourceful; whether that is using ingredients from our garden or using wasted ingredients as compost. I try and live by what we preach, and becoming a father really put this into play. It’s simple really, I wanted a better world for my daughter. I often end up sorting my neighbours rubbish when I see recyclable items in the communal bins.
What’s the music like in Nine Lives?
Tom: The music is as important to us as the drinks. We rebuilt our sound system from repurposed parts, which is given a rich tone by clever sound engineering. Our list is curated by Nicola Robinson who is part of Earthboogie. We have a collective of amazing DJs that are constantly changing; some of our regulars are The Hotel Lobby, Bee Shiver, and Lucid Stanner.
What are each of your favourite cocktails in Nine Lives?
Tom: It depends on the time. Normally pale ale if I am having a drink in the afternoon, a Negroni in the early evening, and anything after 10pm comes in the form of Mezcal.
Emma: Personally, I’m a sucker for a straight up margarita with an inordinate amount of salt and our mezcal version is freaking delicious.
Allan: Moby Dick – it’s some of Tom’s finest work and one of our biggest sellers. It’s coconut fat washed Black Label with salted caramel.
What’s your favourite bar in London?
Tom: I have three; Satan’s Whiskers,Three Sheets, and Happiness Forgets. They'e special because they’ve been built from love not money, the people there really care about what they do.
Emma: I’m quite partial to our own, but failing that, I’m still a big fan of Happiness Forgets.
Allan: Agree with Tom here that Three Sheets is the best in Dalston, and probably London. Hats off to the brothers that built it.
What about favourite neighbourhood restaurant? Could you tell us a little bit about the neighbourhood itself and what makes the restaurant special?
Tom: My two essentials are Tonkotsu East and Chick n’ Sours. Both are food for the soul and within 5 minutes of my apartment on Kingsland Road. Between running two businesses and having a young family, these places bring me solace.
Emma: I really like BRAT, CUB and Santo Remedio, which is a great restaurant down the road from us. It's relaxed, and the food is delicious. Exactly what I am looking for.
Allan:Black Axe Mangal on Highbury corner is a one off & half a mile from home. Brings an edge to N1 like nowhere else, and the food is as delicious as it is bonkers. Nine Lives is in London Bridge and my favourite round here is Kauboi Ramen, cheap and mega tasty.
What’s your favourite city that you’ve travelled to and why? Could you name either a Less Ordinary that’s made an impact?
Tom: I would say Mexico City. I spent a lot of time in Mexico City when planning Diageo’s World Class competition a few years back. Travelling to the city on my own, I had time to wander the streets and fall in love with the unique combination of European and Latin American influence. Stand out places there would have to be Departmento an amazing bar with incredible music laid out like someone’s apartment; and Hanky Panky, one of the best hidden bars I’ve ever been to.
Emma: That’s mine too! Mexico City is the most vibrant, chaotic, and live place where the warmth and hospitality of the people just shines through. Limantour has this in spades and would be my recommendation every time.
Allan: Besides Mexico City, for me it is probably Los Angeles. Petit Ermitage is the place to be — a blissful escape which feels like the rest of LA bloomed around it.
What can our APLO Members expect when they go to Nine Lives?
Allan: Nine Lives was about creating a bar for ourselves and our mates. If we loved it, we knew others would too. Midweek it is a great hidden gem to have a few drinks made by Bermondsey’s best bartenders. Towards the end of the week and at weekends, the music is our focus and its heavy on feel good factor down there. Almost guaranteed you’ll meet a new mate at Nine Lives.
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies
Check out our other drinks stories below