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Turning Japanese – have you attended the Japanese school of bartending?

May 23, 2018

Hidetsugu Ueno Japanese school of bartending blog

At Über we talk a lot about precision and accuracy and focus on the importance of creating a superior cocktail experience right down to the minutest detail, but we're not the only ones…

A school of bartending exists where detail is everything. A school where precision and performance are the essence of cocktail making… think tea ceremonies, think sushi, think Japanese bartending.

"When I think of Japanese philosophies in bartending I think of the word Kaizen, Japanese for ‘improvement,’” Nick Jones, lead bartender at Pabu Izakaya in San Francisco tells Tales of the Cocktail.

"The precision, and perfection in the movement of bartending truly becomes an art form and makes the art of making a drink just as special as what you are drinking,” says Jones. 

Japanese bartenders see their work as a true vocation, not just an evening job. They constantly work to improve and achieve mastery in every aspect of bartending, from the perfectly balanced cocktail to the highest level of service.

So, what can we learn from Japanese bartending?

Hospitality On a Higher Plane

At Über we talk about Bar-Shido, a play on the word Bushido, the Japanese art of samurai swordsmanship, which encapsulates the values of mastery, honour and loyalty.  These values underpin everything we think is important in bartending and is perfectly illustrated by Japanese master bartenders.

Hidetsugu Ueno of Bar High Five in Tokyo told South China Morning Post; “We care about the small details,” saying that he listens out for the ‘clink’ of the ice cube hitting the glass to tell him a customer has finished their drink and needs another.

The Devil is in The Detail

Japanese bartenders may be the inventors of the infamous ‘hard shake’ and master sculptors of ice for craft cocktails, but this is not about showmanship.

Japanese techniques are the result of their utmost respect to the tools and ingredients they work with. In other words, it’s not just about the hospitality, or the devotion to presentation, but the detail: the exact ice, the perfectly poured whiskey.    

 Hidetsugu Ueno Japanese bartender ice carving precision

Australian chef, Neil Perry, says about Japanese cuisine "It's their respect for the craft of cooking, the attention to detail and their fanaticism about the quality of ingredients," according to an interview with the Australian Financial Review.

Precise Techniques

Individual bartenders employ their own precise techniques and rituals. For example, the hard shake, designed to move the ice cubes around the shaker, instead of crashing into each other, is different for each person.

And stirring techniques can vary too. Some believe if you don’t want to overwork a drink, don’t stir. If you pour tonic directly onto gin (and add ice afterwards), then the tonic will mix with the gin through the force of the carbonation alone.

But Japanese bartenders have a shared passion for ice-making. Ice is hand-formed into large cubes, spheres and other shapes using ice picks and forks, with the diamond known as the most spectacular hard ice trick.

The Best Tools for the Trade

Just like the samurai sword delivers precision and accuracy, so do high quality tools.

Even the Japanese style bar spoon is more elegant than others. Elongated, with a slimmer design, our ProTrident has a forked end for the essential finishing touches.

Uberbartools ProTrident and ice tools for cocktail making precision

If you want to get that amazing diamond cube to finish a simple drink with some dazzling clarity – look no further than our ice tools to sculpt the best jewel.

Or maybe you want to perfect the Martial Arts of Bartending – the Hard Shake? Curiously it’s actually a gentle shake, and our M Shaker will help you do just that. 

When it comes precision and accuracy in every aspect of a cocktail, we have the tools to help you achieve mastery.

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