Those who have been fortunate enough to visit bars in Japan know that bartending there is a very different thing than it is in the States and in Europe. Though the US has been undergoing a cocktail revival recently, replete with speakeasies, tiki bars, and watering holes focused on a single spirit, Japan has enjoyed the relatively uniform growth of cocktail craftsmanship since the end of World War II.
Kazuo Uyeda, the author of Cocktail Techniques, has been bartending at some of Japan's finest bars since 1966. He is the man who invented the hard shake, among other techniques, and has written four books on cocktails and bartending that were published in his native Japan. His latest, Cocktail Techniques is a fascinating window into a style of bartending not often found on this side of the Pacific.
The focus of Japanese bartending is total—where we mostly hope for a great drink at a high-end bar, the emphasis in Japan is on the complete experience:
Westerners focus on results. While the Japanese have been influenced by this focus to a certain extent in recent years, we, at heart, respect the process...We have a certain sensibility whereby we tend to look closely at the way a cocktail is made and the effort that went into achieving a good taste. We focus not only on the flavor of the resulting cocktail but also on the process of mixing, and I believe that the effort put into mixing the cocktail contributes to its ultimate flavor.
Originally published in 2000, Cocktail Techniques outlines Uyeda's philosophy, techniques, and recipes in clear language, with accompanying photos, so that even a novice home bartender can learn the basics of Japanese bartending, from the hard shake and Tokyo Kaikan stir to carving an ice ball. The new edition (released last year) is the first English translation ever available.
It was certainly worth the wait. The classic recipes feature both the traditional proportions as well as those used by Uyeda, and he outlines which spirits and glassware to use. It is an indispensable guide to the cocktail culture of Japan, and a great home bartending resource.
Win 'Cocktail Techniques'
Thanks to the generous folks Mud Puddle Books, we are giving away five (5) copies of Cocktail Techniques this month. To enter, simply tell us what your favorite cocktail is in the comments section below. Contest will close March 21st at noon EST.