This blog describes my very own personal experiences from being a young English man, from a tiny village in South Wales UK, to living the life and rubbing shoulders with the stars in Los Angeles. this will demonstrate my development and should hopefully provide a few entertaining stories of my experiences. I hope you enjoy it, and feel involved with my time here in the United States.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Finding The One....

Being an Englishman, I like to think I know one or two things about drinks…. From the age of 18 you are legally allowed to consume alcohol in the United Kingdom. So of course I saw fit to take advantage of the freedom which our wonderful government has granted 18 year olds, and taste vast styles of beverages and beers. And yes I may have tasted a few to many once or twice before…

In England you have the pub. Pubs can come in various ways, you have the main pub, which is the busiest pub in the town, you have bars which have more of a theme to them, or you have my favorite… the Local Pub. My local is called the “Portskewett Inn” which is located in the tiny village of Portskewett, in Wales. May not be much, but it’s home.

The Portskewett Inn

This quality is hard to find in a pub, it is like finding the right partner in life; you have to get along with them, enjoy the company and know what each other really want. you want to find... The ONE. There is nothing more satisfying than when you walk into your local pub, and you are greeted by your name, one or two other people say hello as you walk in, and then the barman or maid saying “The usual Aaron?”

My Brother Anton, Mother Tracy and I

Martyn, Anton, Myself and Brianne. All at out favorite Locals.

Of course the usual for me is the traditional “Manly” Pint. A good cold pint of beer with the drop of water dripping down the side of the glass from the cool condensation, then the first sip where the flavors attack the taste buds, rush around the mouth, then feeling that cold refreshing sensation as the glorious beverage is swallowed…. A pint sounds good right about now…

Martyn, Ken Morgan (The Neighbor), John Bennett and Anton. (We do spend time outside the pub, i promise)

Now I have to say, upon moving here to the United States, I have not found such a connection, such warmth, such love from a local bar or pub. There have been many imitations, but I just feel like they are cheating on me, they are trying to be something they are not…. I feel so used…

Now along with the pub comes the beverage; in the UK men drink pints of beer or cider, women drink wine, and if the woman is feeling daring they might have a half pint of lager, or then again maybe a Malibu rum and coke…. That is the extent of the varieties. Of course there are different brands of beer, but people find it difficult to stray from what they know.

My father is a great example; Mr Martyn Kaniecki is a typical man. He loves sports, he knows what he likes to eat (again not straying far from the traditional steak) He asks for underwear and socks for Christmas, and he knows what he likes to drink. He enjoys a nice pint of bitter, usually in the form of John Smiths, or Welsh local favorite Brains… (Don’t worry that’s the name not the content…) Wherever we go, he will sniff out the closest he can get to that. If you offer him a cocktail, he might scrunch his face and politely decline. Male, sport, steak, beer, socks for Christmas. You will find that in the dictionary under Married English Male.

So given my drinking history, I have never had a beverage that had fruit in it, fluffy bits, and bizarre names…. I ask for a pint, the person next to me is ordering a Dragon fruit and smoked lychee martini…. I was waiting for some Bruce lee twirling, flame throwing sparkling beverage to turn up on the bar… Of course I was disappointed.

I have never seen so many different beers, with wheat beers, flavored beers, beers with fruit in… it took me a while before I could stray away from the Budwiser and Coors and to start trying the more obscure flavors. I love the names of the beverages here too, walking up to the bar and asking “I’ll have a pint of Arrogant Bastard” or “Give me a Fat Tire” it is somewhat entertaining.

At home they are all named after people, John Smiths, Rev. James and Brains to name a few.

After being here for a year and a half I have had to adapt to American ways, and I use the word ADAPT and not CHANGED, because I still love my local pub. I have now had the privilege of tasting some of the most amazing cocktails. Most of which have been concocted from GG! mixologist Dan Smith. He can adapt any ingredient into a infusion (Like his kumquat vodka); he can take a meal and turn it into a delicious beverage (Like his crazy surf and turf bloody mary, which includes a celery stalk, beef jerky, blue cheese and bacon stuffed olive, cream cheese and caviar stuffed olive and one cooked jumbo shrimp….) Any occasion, he will dream up a cocktail and a catchy name to add that extra piece of personality at an event.

Dan Smith's Surf and Turf Bloody Mary

Now if I ever took my father to a bar here in the US and he ordered a beer, and I ordered a sparkling limoncello and lavender martini, I am sure he is going to give me a funny look… But here it is all about that LA glamor, that way of life to be bigger, better and different. It is the purpose to show what weird and wonderful drinks you can make rather than the quiet, local, intimate atmosphere the traditional local pub has adopted.

Limoncello Lavender Martini

In an event, a specialty beverage goes a long way. To have a beverage which is completely original, something people have never tried before, and to be made exclusively for you, gives that VIP feel and effect. Not to mention that they are delicious.

Los Angeles has it’s own personality; it thrives on attention, glitz and glamor, and I believe that is reflecting in the beverage industry. But that isn’t to mean that it is a bad thing. The “cocktail hour” is huge on this side of the pond, and I know that people who visit LA love the variety and outrageous beverages at which it has to offer… because after all, why travel and pay for something that you could get at home?

It does create that excitement, that anticipation as to what is going to be put in front of you. What glass is it going to be in? What color is it going to be? What garnishes is it going to have? Is it going to taste good!?!?!? This small thrill is what the client is experiencing when discussing their specialty beverage with the mixologist. Are the guests going to like it? Will anyone drink it? What color is it going to be?

What is special is that the beverage is for them, designed for them, the color fits into their event, the taste represents what they are about and the time of year.

That being said, would Martyn Kaniecki order a specialty beverage for his event…? Maybe…. Maybe in the form of a pint of John Smiths… but then again he is a man set in his ways.

In closing, each side of the pond brings something to the table. At home, you can walk into a pub on your own and know that you could pretty much guarantee you will recognize someone, and have no hesitation in sitting down with your pint and joining them for the night. No lines at the bar, no long list of drinks to choose from, just simplicity at its finest.

On this side of the pond, it is that WOW factor, that variety, that buzzing atmosphere at the bar, and the opportunity to push the boundaries and try something new. Will these two sides find a common ground one day? Maybe… Will My father try a Dragon fruit and smoked lychee martini… no.

Key Learning Notes:

  • Not every intimidating exotic stripper named beverage comes out with fireworks, sparklers and Bruce Lee twirling it to the sound of its own anthem.
  • Martyn Kaniecki asks for underwear and socks for Christmas.
  • Something so simple as a beverage can be a sweet touch to an event
  • Push the boat out and at least TRY something new.
  • British pubs are only British pubs if they are in Britain… Not if it is in the middle of Los Angeles hanging the Union Jack outside it having to advertise that it is a British pub…. Stop lying to me!
  • You can create any beverage for any event, for any time of year… Just try it.


  1. Replies
    1. Great to hear from you Aaron enjoyed the story. If you ever make it to my bar in Mississippi I promise to greet you by name. R.