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A Chat With: Award-Winning Mixologist Ariel Sanecki of Pig’s Lane

For our latest interview, we had the pleasure of chatting with Ariel Sanecki, a renowned mixologist with a stellar track record in the world of cocktails and hospitality. With nearly 20 years in the industry, Ariel has amassed an impressive collection of accolades.

In 2012, Ariel was crowned National Cocktail Champion at the Irish Cocktail Championships run by the Bartenders Association of Ireland. From there, he went on to add a whole host of illustrious awards to his trophy cabinet including: a National Gold Shaker Trophy; Silver at the 2016 World Cocktail Championships in Japan; and the Relais & Châteaux Cocktail Trophy.

Since September 2023, Ariel has brought his expertise to the O’Donoghue Ring Collection as their Drinks Development Manager, where he is responsible for innovating and managing the beverage concepts across the group’s impressive portfolio, including venues like Pig’s Lane, Café du Parc and O’Donoghue Public House. We caught up with Ariel to hear more about his vision for the collection, his personal favourites and his impressive pedigree in the world of mixology.

1. What sparked your interest in bartending and mixology?

It all started in 2008 when I worked at the Cliff House Hotel, a 5-star hotel in Ardmore Co. Waterford. The bar manager Richard had an incredible passion for making cocktails and I would watch him in awe. I saved some money and learned the tricks of trade on a local and global scale. In 2011 I joined the Irish Bartenders Association and had the privilege of representing Ireland at the World Championships, taking home, gold and silver. 

2. What is your favourite thing about being a mixologist?

There are two things: traveling the world and getting to know other cultures, and the second is discovering new flavours and methods of cocktail making. 

3. Have you noticed any differences in the world of bartending in Ireland versus abroad (championships in Japan, starting out in Greece etc.)?

For many years, Ireland has been an icon of bartending, and of course the warm Irish welcome is something that’s in our DNA. Ireland’s cocktail industry is thriving, with new bars opening weekly, offering unique menus and excellent service. The cocktails are crafted to an exceptional quality here, made with the finest ingredients sourced from top distilleries and suppliers.

4. Where do you get the inspiration to create new cocktails?

My biggest inspiration comes from my favourite drink; Irish whiskey. I love this golden liquid, it’s becoming more popular, and nowadays people are more inclined to explore different tastes. If it were up to me, I would make all our cocktails with Irish whiskey, but I must think about other tastes too!

5. Tell us about your journey competing to become a multi award-winning mixologist, how did you ensure you outshone your competitors to win the likes of the Relais & Chateaux Cocktail Trophy? 

Honestly, it took hard work and determination. I love the creative process and experimenting with different ingredients and flavours. Passion and energy are poured into the process, which the judges recognise immediately.

6. Who do you admire most in the Irish drinks industry?

Jack McGarry from The Dead Rabbit bar, Dave Mulligan from BAR 1661 and Andy Ferrera from Cask, I think they have all contributed to making Irish bartending so popular globally. 

7. What makes Pig’s Lane different from other cocktail bars in Ireland?

Our underground bar offers an extensive list of bespoke crafted cocktails, exceptional whiskeys and live entertainment. Attention to detail is evident right across the bar. Everything adorning the space is reclaimed and one-of-a-kind. Our whiskey parlour; tucked away behind a vintage glass cabinet, is reminiscent of a clandestine speakeasy from the Prohibition era. 

We commissioned an Irish artist to create characters inspired by some local figures of a bygone era. They feature on our t-shirts, our menu and our beer mats. Every aspect has been considered across the bar to tell the story of Pig’s Lane and give it a character of its own to bring it to life. 

Beyond our bespoke drinks selection, our talented team of chefs have also created a small plates and light bites menu, featuring cult items including our staple XXL Toastie (one of the best in Ireland!) alongside delicious Irish cheese and charcuterie boards. 

8. What vision do you have for the O’Donoghue Ring Collection beverage operations and Pig’s Lane going forward?

Consistency and quality are our top priorities. We’re always brainstorming fresh ideas and adding our own unique flair to our cocktails. Personally, I’m keen on expanding our whiskey selection even further, handpicking the best Irish whiskeys to make our collection even more impressive.

9. With a multitude of venues included in the O’Donoghue Ring Collection, how do you come up with different cocktail ideas for each location? Do you take inspiration from the location itself?

Each location has its own unique personality. When crafting our recipes and menus, we take the ambience and customer preferences of each bar into account alongside the location, culture, history and local/seasonal ingredients available to us, to ensure a truly distinct experience across each bar.

11. Would cocktail and food pairings be something you would like to explore, or do you prefer creating cocktails as a stand-alone drink?

We’re lucky to work closely with a team of culinary experts. Together, we’re always trying out new food and drink ideas, putting our own spin on things, and making sure everything tastes just right. 

12. With sustainability being a core mission of The O’Donoghue Ring Collection, how do you incorporate this with the sourcing of ingredients for your cocktails?

Killarney Urban Farm was proudly developed by the O’Donoghue Ring Collection and stands as Ireland’s pioneer in hydroponic urban farming for the hospitality industry. Here, we cultivate a variety of herbs, salads, and micro-greens. Our produce serves bars, restaurants, and hotels across the Kerry region, with fresh, homegrown herbs and garnishes. 

In addition, we are fortunate to be surrounded by some of Ireland’s finest beverage suppliers, such as Wayward Spirits and Attyflin. They’re all about quality, just like us, so we know every ingredient is top-notch and sustainably made.

13. Do you have a vision in mind for how a person reacts when they drink a particular cocktail? Do they tell a story?

One word – WOW! 

14. What has been your proudest achievement to date?

When I represented Ireland at the World Championships with the result of a silver medal in Japan 2016 and a gold medal in Estonia 2018, I’m proud to say I am the only one in history to win two medals for Ireland. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Irish Bartenders Association team and president. 

15. If we could only try one cocktail in Pig’s Lane, which one should it be?

The Derrynane Dew is inspired by the impressive surroundings of Killarney, it’s strong and stylish with a smoky finish. 

16. What is your signature cocktail?

All the cocktails that feature on the cocktail menu are my signature cocktails…and are absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. 

17. What is your favourite drink to order when off duty?

Simplicity at its best…whiskey with soda water. 

For more information, follow Ariel and Pig’s Lane on Instagram.

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