Kyle Branche: Telling His Story Through Cocktails and Writing
What a beautiful thing it is to be able to encounter new people with different passions, careers, motivations, stories, and more. Discovering new things about a person and their own experiences is truly a beautiful moment and recently, I had the chance to speak with Kyle Branche who is a bartender and writer, exploring his different passions and bringing them together. You see, Kyle has been in the industry for a long time now and has had the opportunity to serve and meet amazing talent from all around the globe! Also a writer, he has published a variety of reads such as puzzle books, writing for other publications, and even has a Youtube channel! Truly a jack-of-all-trades, Kyle Branche inspires us to pursue our passions…full throttle! And now, I will let him speak on his experience in our exclusive interview below!
What has your journey been like up until now?
What inspired you to pursue both careers?
It happened by accident. I had produced the first-ever DVD series of live and up-close cocktail preparations, called Cocktail Art, back in 2002 – Summer Quenchers and The Entertainer. This was before most all forms of social media, including YouTube. I had then sent my video product to two industry magazines because they had New Products pages. Within a short time I received a reply back from both asking if I would be interested in writing for them. I said sure, and it turned out that I ended up writing contributing articles, monthly columns and feature cover stories over the next ten years that resulted in 75 published pieces. I’ve written here and there for a few others since then, the most recent being the Winter 2018 issue in Hidden Hills magazine with a special 5-pager called “A Whiskey Threesome of Bold Fashion” that covers a trio of classic variations of the Old Fashioned cocktail – The Storyville, Catcher In The Rye, and Scotch O’Clock.
In what ways do both careers crossover?
When you work on the culinary beverage side of the hospitality industry, there’s always learning and creating going on. This is what led me to this type of job. I’m an artistic personality and I’m built for speed. Plus I’m a journeyman at this work. When you practice this work as a professional behind the bar, of which I do professionally with establishments and operations as well as privately with freelance bar gigs all over L.A., to the tune of working 2,500 various events over the years, everything becomes and experience for one’s overall knowledge of craft and service. Our work is an endless practice much like the practice of doctors and lawyers, always learning and changing with the times, new ideas and ways of doing things. This is where the writing aspect becomes invaluable to the industry publications, because I’m on the front lines of everything going on all the time. Not only that, over the last ten years I’ve also been in the rare bartender member position with Beam Global Suntory for their online platform where we conduct various surveys on products, bottle designs, new releases and much more forum-like communication as experts in the field.
What do each of them highlight about who you are?
I have the energy of two people in my body. Both works of writing and being a high- volume bartender require immense time and effort to do well. And being a creative, I’m always going the extra mile in just about everything I do. I like achieving goals of further reach, beyond what most would care for, including helping others become better. It sets you apart in the river-flowing realm of where something special lives. It’s where you find or stumble across niches that haven’t been thought of before as ideas to investigate and/or create from. I am a being of service. I live simple so I can get a lot done. Therefore, I share my experiences in various writing formats, either with the magazines, or the books that I’ve published, all the short stories/vignettes on my LABartender blog or in the book series “Life Behind Bars”, and being the creator and site runner for the online global directory of everything Bitters around the world at Bitters Hub. Behind the bar is where I share my overall knowledge of cocktail archive history and spirits in our material world, along with my bitters and tinctures.
You have definitely seen a lot of things as a bartender! Can you share with us one of your favorite stories?
I’ll give you a two-fer. 1. After I moved to L.A., I got into acting school, and I found out I was good at it. I had to audition. Never been on stage before. But this was the place. One night at my bar job in Burbank I was approached by another actor/bartender co-worker who asked if I’d be interested in reading for a part in a stage play. I said sure. We do the table reading one afternoon at a lady’s house in Hollywood. I find out during the break that one of the three ladies in the play, of which this was her home, happened to be American character actress Ann Doran, who played the mother to James Dean’s character in the movie Rebel Without A Cause. 2. Every Christmas Eve for several years I worked the private parties of legendary Hollywood publicist, Dale Olson. His clients were the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Steiger, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley MacLaine, Tony Curtis, Laurence Olivier, Steve McQueen, Diane Ladd, Gene Kelly, Clint Eastwood and many more over his career. There’s just so many stories I have, it’s tough to even touch on them a little because I feel they’re being shortchanged. We’d have to do a series. I worked the original bar a few times in the Palm Drive home once owned by Jean Harlow from 100 years ago, and sometime after by Rita Hayworth. Cool bar, where her buddy Clark Gable poured a drink or two, no doubt. I worked at a private golf club for three years where Amelia Earhart was a member and owned a home off one one of the greens back in the day. It was said that this was where she planned out what would turn out to be her last flight.
Why this one?
Because I love Old Hollywood. And I never thought a kid like me would be in a position where I not only rubbed elbows and chatted with them, but in some cases became their longtime friends. This is what a big-city bartender can become after decades in the field as a confidante when working in their private homes. I may share experiences, but I don’t tell secrets. That’s the difference. Keep it clean, keep it safe and respectful for all involved.
Tell us more about the books you write. What is your inspiration?
I write cocktail books, short story books, word search puzzle game books, and a first novel for down the road. Fiction is an entirely different gear and mind mode than non- fiction. The current book series stems from the six years I worked in the music business in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Aside from winning sales display awards from Columbia Records artists Journey and Willie Nelson, I turned my artist/band knowledge into word search puzzle books – Rock n’ Roll Puzzlers, Jazz Puzzlers, Country Puzzlers due out in April/May of 2022 – these are puzzles where you’re searching for song titles of the various artist/band discographies selected for each book. It’s a fun and entertaining exploration into music history. I also have a word search puzzle book on cocktail history, called “Cocktails on the Brain”, where you’re searching for drink names within 50 various cocktail themes. The first-ever of it’s kind. In fact, the same for the music puzzlers too. They’re very unique and creative.
What are some other publications you have written for?
Patterson’s Beverage Journal – now The Tasting Panel
Style and Trend
Hidden Hills Magazine
Favorite thing to write?
It’s always what I’m doing now at the moment. I’ve worked on so many different projects over the last 30+ years where you enjoy the journey of the works to their completion, and then you move onto the next one, and so on. However, the 50 short stories I wrote for the “Life Behind Bars” book series was a fun way to get some of those experiences on paper finally. There’s a third book to make it a trilogy that I haven’t done/started yet. Hopefully someday soon. I like to write one a week. I also wrote a treatment for a one-hour dramatic TV series based on all these experiences, along with the episode outlines for all of season one. That’s a whole other ballgame.
In terms of bartending, how do you come up with different cocktails?
You have to get good at putting flavors together with spirits, liqueurs, mixers, bitters, sugar, water etc. This takes time with years of training yourself on what all that booze tastes and smells like, the proof strength of it, learning the classics, and then after some years of respecting the craft, start in on the creation of your own signature cocktails. I have about 70 of my own that started way back in the late 80’s. With a colleague of mine, we have an online bar courses website at BarProfessional.com where we teach various course levels from beginners basic classroom instruction to bar management.
Do you have a personal favorite?
With a world of cocktails out there, it’s tough to choose like that. At the moment, my favorites are the new ones I created for this season, which are variations on two whiskey classics – The Manhattan Transfer and the Apple Crisp Old Fashioned. You have to get good at being a mixologist, where the senses of your palate and mind have to work for it to come together. This is when you know you’ve created something special. It gets easier, but you have to put the time in. Like a jazz musician.
How has the world evolved in the last 20 years? What are benefits? Downfalls?
It’s always a combination of progress and digress from what I see. Unfortunately, it’s incremental instead of leaps and bounds. Humans are designed to evolve and grow and go 100 mph doing it. We should be 50-75 years ahead of where we‘re at right now. And that’s a sad state. Governments are always in the way because they feel a need to control the (slow) pace of progress so their old, antiquated industries stay afloat instead of dying off like they should. Therefore the status quo never changes. This is what America is like, anyway. I can’t speak for other countries where I’ve never lived. But I’m fully aware that some countries are passing us by in this respect. If you’ve ever watched the 2007 documentary “2057 – The Body, The City, The World” narrated by Dr. Michio Kaku, it gives a glimpse of could be, or should be.
Growing up, what is a memory that stands out to you?
Well, aside from the farm life that I’ve lived and previously talked about, and miss very much, baseball as a kid in Arizona was a great time because the San Diego Padres had their Spring Training in my other small town, so I was able to see many legends of the sport play close-up for several years either as rookies or during the last couple years of their career. I wrote a 2,000 word story on this earlier this year and it received a huge response online. It’s in the pipeline for future publication with Triple AAA’s Westways Magazine, hopefully for Spring 2022. But it’s out of my control. All I can do is send it off and get it to the right people, of which I did. Fingers crossed.
Do you believe you have found your purpose yet? If so, what is it?
Yes, I’d say so. I’m a good communicator. And thankfully there are outlets for me to get my content as a provider out in the mediasphere somewhat. There’s competition in everything, so all I can do is have the goods ready and meet them up with a need. The key is to then pray that it lands in the hands of someone with equal experience that knows a good story when they see one. My work behind the bar continues. I’ve poured in more different bar venues in town than any bartender in Los Angeles history. It’s a strange fact, but it’s true. With the way I’ve gone about my work in establishment and freelance settings, it’s hard to beat. Becoming legendary in anything requires a lifetime of dedication and effort. No easy road to achieve it.
What comes next?
My first novel and the continued books in the Music Puzzlers series of which there will be about 8-10 that cover various music genres. I’ve had the novel on the table for five years now. The structure and organization of it is all done. I just need to fill in all the content of the story that takes place over the course of a year. I can’t tell you the title as that’s something I never give out until it’s completed and at the finish line. But it’s a journey in itself, and it takes place in the future, yet it’s not Sci-Fi. Once I get to an uninterrupted space of time for fiction work, I’ll need to take a long train trip. It helps to get out of my surrounding element for awhile and gain a fresh take and more research. Create a motivation with a passion work for the one life you have. Do something. Not because someone tells you to. Do it and become better at it than anyone else. There’s always work to do. That’s a good thing. Now get it done !
Here are links to a few video shorts from Kyle’s YouTube page.
Supper Club Tableside Cocktail Preparation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Clive “The Bartender from the Dead” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Liquid Kitchen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?
ALSO, he is the Creator and Site Runner of the online global directory of all things Bitters around the world.
147 Brands, 1,032 Flavor Entries, 473 Live Links, a 2-year monthly bitters brand owner interview series, 8 more short stories not on the LABartender Blog, and a side story titled Ice Cube Confidential. https://bittershub.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/first-blog-post/
One thought on “Kyle Branche: Telling His Story Through Cocktails and Writing”
Kyle, you are very cool, cousin!