Japanese Bartending


The whole world has been mesmerised by the art & style of Japanese bartending. The land of the rising Sun has long been the holy grail of bartender 'pilgrimage' sites. It was always rumoured that bartending came to Japan after the US occupation after WW2 since the soldiers wanted to drink what they could get back home. There is as always more than meets the eye when it comes to any subject & especially when it comes to a culture that is definitely out of our immediate touch. So we trailed the internet to find the details on this mysterious cocktail culture... All Words from the JapanTimes: The art of the cocktail is indisputably non-Japanese. The word itself is old American slang for a pick-me-up, referring in modern parlance to any mixed drink containing liquor and at least one other ingredient. Even if you aren’t a drinker, chances are you can name quite a few: the martini, the Manhattan, the gin and tonic. They’re more than just libations, they’re part of the Western vocabulary for relaxation.

Yet over the past two decades, bartenders from Japan have emerged as unlikely sages and superstars of the international cocktail scene. Things really started to heat up around 2008, when Bon Appetit magazine declared Tokyo the “cocktail capital of the world.” Two years later, 120 New Yorkers paid $675 each for the privilege of watching Tokyo barman Kazuo Uyeda demonstrate his “hard shake” mixing style on a rare visit to the city.

Today, meticulously designed Japanese barware sets the global standard.

“The Japanese cut-glass mixing beaker is in almost universal use,” says cocktail historian David Wondrich. “Japanese jiggers, shaker tins, dasher bottles and bar spoons are all widely used.” And mastering Japanese tricks such as carving ice cubes into perfectly transparent spheres or diamonds is a must for any cocktail slinger with aspirations of greatness.

The Japanese way of bartending is like “a time-capsule of 1930s international bartending,” Wondrich says. But given its foreign origins, how on earth did Japanese bartenders gain such outsized influence in worldwide mixology? And are they really keepers of the flame for some long-forgotten school of cocktail arts?

To answer those questions, let’s first turn back the clock to 1860. This marks the appearance of Japan’s very first Western-style bar, inside the Yokohama Hotel, also known as the Hotel Hufnagel after its Dutch owner. It was a hastily constructed affair surrounded by a tall fence designed to keep locals out. Perhaps this was for the best: The Hufnagel’s guests were a crusty lot of seamen, merchants and adventurers whose drinking games included firing their revolvers at a clock on the bar’s wall.

“There wasn’t much to do, other than drink,” says Kazuo Ishikura, a writer specializing in the history of Japan’s cocktail culture. “Foreign residents were told by the authorities to stay inside at night. If they ventured out, there was a high chance they’d be surrounded by samurai with a grudge against foreigners.”

A recipe for needing a stiff drink, to be sure. But the Hufnagel offered only beers, wines and liquor — straight up.

“The first bar to serve actual cocktails opened in Yokohama’s International Hotel in 1874,” Ishikura says. “The bartender, Mr. Purvis, was so popular that he was caricatured in the English-language humor magazine Japan Punch.”

Behind the International Hotel’s bar, Purvis compounded old-timey favorites such as sherry cobblers and mint juleps for thirsty expats — and likely the occasional local as well.