Measure & Stir

A Craft Cocktail Blog for the Home Bartender that Focuses on Original Creations Drawn from Culinary Inspiration.


Leave a comment

Best Tokyo Craft Cocktail Bars – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #12

Hey guys, I’ve owed you this one for a while, but somehow I just never got around to it. This is a roundup post where I’m going to give a quick recap of my cocktail adventures in Tokyo. Mostly I just want a central landing page for this topic. These are all of the bars I visited, along with photographic evidence and some words on my experiences at each one.

I started the series with some thoughts on Japanese Cocktail Philosophy, a kind of recap of my impressions and learnings.

trench3

Craft Cocktail Bars In Tokyo

  • Gen Yamamoto – Gen serves original cocktails that reflect “shiki”, Japanese seasonality, using fresh ingredients while
    building on a progression of flavors and harmony.
  • Bar High Five – Hidetsugu Ueno’s world-famous bar focuses on classic drinks and perfecting customer service.
  • Kazuo Uyeda’s Bar Tender – The one and only, Kazuo Uyeda serves flawless classics along with his award-winning originals.
  • Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bar – Luxurious ambience and some old tiki favorites.
  • Conrad Hotel Bar – Stunning views, but their ambitious mixology needs a little refinement.
  • Bar Benfiddich – The perfect bar in every way. Homey, comfortable, with a true artisan behind the bar. Ben makes his own versions of classic liqueurs such as Chartreuse and Campari.
  • The Stella – A modernist mixology lounge in Ebisu with barrel-aged cocktails, foams, liquid nitrogen, and smoke guns.
  • CodeName: Mixology Akasaka – Molecular mixology at its finest. Don’t miss the rotovap-distilled spirits in drinks such as the blue cheese cognac martini.
  • Bar Trench – A small, intimate venue more in the style of a US or European craft bar.
  • Bar Aliviar – A neighborhood bar mostly catering to locals. A great place to experience the less flashy side of Japanese bartending.
  • Soukichi Glassware Company – A supplier of high quality glassware to many of the bars listed above.

And for those of us who are ready, here is a summary of my thoughts on Japanese Mixology.

Bars that I really wanted to visit but we didn’t quite make it

If you happen to visit one of them, why not write me a guest post?

Kanpai!


1 Comment

Soukichi Glassware Company – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #11

This is our final stop on Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm). Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I will be posting a summary and some closing thoughts.

As I mentioned earlier, the glassware in Japan is top-notch. In every bar we visited, from the elegant Gen Yamamoto to the internationally renowned Tender to the unassuming Aliviar, a single name kept popping up: The Soukichi Glassware Company. A pilgrimage was in order. Located next to Asakusa station, we had a little bit of difficulty finding this one. It is a very small store, easy to miss, but inside they sell the most beautiful barware I have ever seen.

soukichi6

Most of it is so delicate and thin that I feared to purchase it, lest I simply return home with a suitcase full of broken glass. Even so, we could not help ourselves, and brought back several souveneirs. Of course they carry the standard trident-style japanese barspoons, as well as a collection of shakers, ice picks, muddlers, jiggers, and japanese-style mixing glasses, similar to the Yarai. Words cannot convey the beauty of the barware that is available in Soukichi, so I will simply say it with pictures:

soukichi2

soukichi3

Isn’t that the most adorable bottle of Porfidio you’ve ever seen?

soukichi4

soukichi5

As an added bonus, Soukichi is not far from the Kappabashi-dori restaurant supply district, where you can find more affordable Japanese barware and kitchen ware, as well. It’s worth a look. Soukichi’s high end of glasses can go over over a hundred dollars a glass, so if that pricetag intimidates you, Kappabashi-dori might be more your style, but even if you don’t buy anything, Soukichi is worth the trip for a barware enthusiast.

soukichi1

Bonus pic of my friend Tom, looking fly outside of their unassuming storefront.


1 Comment

Bar Aliviar – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #10

Aliviar is not a big-name bar like some of the others in “Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm)”.

In fact, it is in every way a neighborhood bar, the little convenient watering hole that you visit for a nightcap after a long night of hard drinking… Man, I know how that sounds. They made it onto this list because they were on the ground floor of the building where my AirBnB was located in Ebisu. Unfortunately for Aliviar, there are two other bars in Ebisu that you should probably visit first, but that is in no way a slight against them.

Aliviar is small, classy, welcoming, and everything that you would expect from a Japanese cocktail bar. The bartender’s movements are precise and elegant. Like most cocktail bars in Japan, the glassware is of a quality that puts any bar in the USA to shame, even the top bars in New York and San Francisco. I mean that, the Japanese have taken barware and glassware into the stratosphere, and meanwhile here we all are, still stuck on the ground.

We ordered classics off of the unspoken menu of Japanese standards; Old Fashioned, White Lady, Gimlet. We haven’t had a cocktail recipe yet since I came back, so let’s take a quick detour here to note that in fact, a White Lady, which is not a very common drink in the States, is made like so:

1.5 oz Gin
.5 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Lemon Juice
Barspoon of Simple Syrup
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass.
Personally, I like to make mine with an egg white.

aliviar

With apologies for the poor photo quality. Anyway, the bartender at Aliviar served such a beautiful Old Fashioned that I had to write about it, though I will note that the strange Japanese practice of placing a bitters-soaked sugar cube on top of ice instead of integrating it into the drink meant that he basically served us a whiskey on the rocks. And Aliviar’s bourbon of choice? Wild Turkey 101.


2 Comments

The Stella – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #9

On the last night of “Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm)” we found ourselves visiting three bars in a single night. Stella was the last stop on our journey, and I and mine were feeling quite fatigued. As a result, my memory of this bar is a little bit hazy, like a dream. I regret that our visit was not longer.

stella5

When we entered the Stella, I admit, the decor did not give us the best first impression. It was a little cheesy. First impressions can be deceiving, however, our bartender, Takashi-san, was very skilled, and the drinks that he made were both delicious and creative. Like Codename:Mixology, the Stella is a molecular bar, and they serve drinks that are smoked, frozen, barrel-aged, and otherwise scienced.

stella3

What a menu! For our first round, my friend Tom started with a Truffled Salty Dog, which was made with grapefruit, vodka, truffle essence, and truffle salt. It was exactly as advertised, and I certainly enjoyed it.

stella4

Dave and I both ordered the “LN2 Lemond -196C”, a drink made with red wine, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, and panna cotta foam, but the twist is that both the drink and the foam were frozen using liquid nitrogen, such that it game out more like a granita. You can see it here, NO2 vapor rising lightly from the glass.

stella2
After that we went with Bartender’s choice or “omaksase” as they say in Japan, and he served us a smoked bloody mary “dolce” with cocoa powder. Notice how the glass has a narrow mouth with a little lid to hold in the smoke.

stella1

Also as part of the omakase service, I received an earl gray orange blossom, above, dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with whole spices. Takashi-san let us try a house-made amaro and a barrel-aged house blend of Islay scotches. Delightful.


2 Comments

Tokyo Craft Bar Trench – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #8

As “Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm)” drew to a close, we found ourself in a cozy neighborhood joint known as Bar Trench…

trench3

Gen Yamamoto told us to go to Benfiddich. Benfiddich told us to go to Codename:Mixology. Codename:Mixology told us to go to Bar Trench, and after a chain of suggestions like that, we simply could not say no. Bar Trench turned out to be in Ebisu, only a few minutes from where we were staying, so it was an easy choice. Trench is owned by the same people as a bar two blocks away called Tram, and both describe themselves as “Elixir and Absinthe”. Of all the bars we visited in Tokyo, Trench was the most similar to an American style craft cocktail bar. In fact, if you found Trench in Seattle, you wouldn’t think twice.

trench2

We did not have a lot of time, and honestly, because it was so familiar, the menu had less to offer than a place like Codename:Mixology, but I want to commend them for creating a great atmosphere and for serving us a rock-solid drink, which they called “Gin and Jam”. Every week, they make a new gourmet jam, and then premix it in jam jars with a spirit as a sour. We were lucky enough to get Gin with homemade Apple-cinnamon jam, and everyone at the table drank it in record time. That’s how you know you did something right.

This was a two-man operation when we were there, and right as we were about to leave, the lead bartender came over to our table and hung out with us for a minute, even though the bar was fairly crowded, and he poured us all a shot of Zacapa 23 and took a shot with us. Little things like that can help take a bar from good to great.

Alas, we were a little short on time at this point, and we only had time for one drink. Still, it was a good time, and if you are in Ebisu, and looking for an American-style craft bar, Trench is the place.


4 Comments

Codename: Mixology, Akasaka – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #7

We still have a few stops left on “Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm)”, so let’s make them count!

mixology1

Codename:Mixology has a location in Akasaka, and a location next to Tokyo central station. The one by Tokyo station has standards, apparently, and they wouldn’t let us in. Fortunately, the one in Akasaka was willing to entertain riffraff like us. Before we get into the meat of this article, I would like to note that it is located right next to liquor store that carries Lemonhart of both the regular and the 151 variety, and that sells green chartreuse for 30$/bottle.

C:M’s interior was probably my favorite of all the bars on the trip, though it was baroque in its style. As you walk in the door, you are greeted by a rotovape distiller, a freezing centrifuge, and a vaporizer gun, announcing the modernist aspirations of the bar. The inside is lavishly decorated with bottles, bitters, ornate barware and leather-bound books. I did not smell any rich mahogany, but then again, I was getting over a cold.

mixology2

C:M had the only bottle of Pappy we saw all trip, and for that matter, their house barrel-aged Manhattan, dubbed “the Manhattan experience” is made with 15-year old Van Winkle rye, Pedro Ximénez sherry, Abbott’s bitters, and a raspberry shrub. I have never had a Manhattan as good as theirs. The particular genius of this drink was to barrel-age a shrub. It sounds obvious once you say it, but I had never realized, prior to this drink, that it is possible to barrel-age a maceration of fruit. Since the vinegar in the shrub acts as a preservative, it is possible to make a drink of this nature.

The menu at C:M explains that their mixology comes in four flavors:
1. Barrel-aging
2. Roto-vape distilling
3. Classic cocktails
4. Other Molecular drinks

And indeed, they have a whole page of barrel-aged drinks, including a mai-tai made with barrel-aged house made mai-tai mix, and a barrel-aged “woodland negroni”, in which a Negroni made with Campari, Amer Picon, and Gin is aged with a house tincture of woodland herbs and spices.

They also had a page of drinks made with rotovape-distilled spirits, including an Asparagus tonic, a Parmesean Vodka martini, and a Blue Cheese Hennessey Martini. They also let us taste a small glass of vodka distilled with foie gras. Let’s just take a moment to talk about rotovapor distillation. Here is an excerpt from Tony Conigliaro’s book The Cocktail Lab, in which he describes the machine:

The Rotovapor is an instrument used to distill a solvent. The purpose of distillation is to separate a given mixture into its components based on their respective volatilities, through the process of evaporation and condensation. What makes the Rotovapor so fantastic is that it has a vacuum. This allows you to evaporate things at lower boiling points because you are evaporating through pressure rather than heat. This is incredibly useful because the less heat you use, the less likely you are to damage or pull apart the more delicate volatiles of an ingredient. Alcohol is a fantastic medium for carrying flavor and volatile aromas. You can extract the purest and freshest flavors from ingredients by removing the water and replacing it with a solvent such as alcohol, gently and at low temperatures. This means your final product has a full spectrum of aroma and flavor notes.

The rotation of the evaporating flask, immersed in a heated water bath, increases the surface area of the product, greatly speeding up distillation and also, through forced convection, keeping the mixture evenly mixed and heated, to promote stable, even evaporation. For example, when distilling rose petals, you have very delicate, small molecules, which too muc hheat would simply burn. With less heat, the delicate molecules are preserved and come through along with the bigger molecules. In this way you have the big picture of what a rose is. What I love about the Rotovapor is that it is one of the most complicated pieces of equipment used in the lab but the products made from it are incredibly poetic.

By the way, if you haven’t read Mr. Conigliaro’s book yet, you really ought to check it out. I will have a book review coming shortly.

mixology4

After we each drank a 15 year Van Winkle Manhattan, Dave ordered a “hot bourbon moscow mule” (isn’t that a Kentucky Mule?), Tom ordered a drink made with roughly equal parts of clarified tomato juice and champagne, and I ordered, in fact, the Blue Cheese martini. The rotovape makes it possible to create distillates at room temperature, so it is possible to distill ingredients such as cheese into a spirit, which would otherwise melt and clog up the still.

I am not sure if it sounds appetizing to you, but in fact the flavor of the blue cheese, or at least, the portion of if that was distillable, really did come out in the drink in a unique and delicious way. This was the most interesting martini of my life to date.

mixology5 “Hot Moscow Mule” on the right, and I apologize but I can’t remember the drink on the left.

mixology3

Finally, because Dave is a lover of all things tiki, he ordered their mashup of a Piña Colada and a Mai Tai, called “Mai Piña”. To be honest, we both would have preferred if this had been a little more rum-forward, but in true Japanese style, the spirit was soft and light upon the palate. Regardless, that tiki glass is amazing.

Codename:Mixology was astonishingly good. Go there.


1 Comment

Tokyo Mixology Bar Benfiddich – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #6

BONUS EDIT: It appears that the bartender at Benfiddich has a blog!

As most of you are probably aware, I’m in the middle of a series of articles reviewing some of the best bars in Tokyo, a venture which I have unfortunately named “Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm)”

So alright, that’s enough hotel bars. Let’s get to the good stuff. I would never have found Bar Benfiddich, in Nishi-Shinjuku, without a recommendation from our esteemed bartender at Gen Yamamoto, and I have to say, this was my favorite bar of the trip. Everything about this bar was great. When we sat down at the bar, we were the first customers of the night, and we had the place to ourselves for a good hour. When the bartender asked us what we want, we replied, bartender’s choice, of course. He then asked if we wanted something standard or interesting, and to long-time readers of Measure and Stir, you will know that I could only say “interesting”.

benfiddich5

Immediately, his eyes lit up and he went to work. I have been to bars where the wall is lined with jars full of spices, but usually it strikes me as empty posturing. In the case of Benfiddich, those whole spices are the cornerstone of their drink philosophy. Our bartender produced an enormous stone mortar and pestle, and made a fresh maceration of at least ten different whole spices, which he stirred with vodka and topped with ginger beer, ice, and mint. In such a preparation, the flavors of the spices are robust and very complete, because an infusion of fresh spices can capture very volatile aromas that do not persist for very long after grinding.

He then asked “Do you like Chartreuse?” Academic. He then produced a slender bottle of house-made green chartreuse, and served it to us neat, and in a highball with house-made tonic water. It was love at first sip. I definitely have a new favorite entry in the “& tonic” category of drinks.

benfiddich4

Other highlights of the trip included yet a second maceration of fresh ground spices, this time in the flavor profile of Campari, which he used to make a “no campari” Spumoni. The Spumoni, along with the White Lady, the Salty Dog, and the Nikolaschka (or whatever that drink is called) are classic era cocktails that seem to have found a particular popularity in Japan. Here is a recipe:

3/4 Campari
1 part Grapefruit juice
1 part Tonic water
Shake Campari and Grapefruit juice over ice, then double strain over fresh ice. Top with tonic and garnish with an orange wedge.

benfiddich2

At one point he made us a Manhattan with Carpano Antica and Luxardo cherry. The cherry liqueur really elevated this beyond the level of an ordinary Manhattan.

benfiddich6

My favorite drink of the night was a drink made with copious amounts of muddled shiso and kumquats, but then, I am a fiend for fresh shiso.

benfiddich3

Benfiddich also served us a bloody Mary that was much in line with the one from Gen Yamamoto, but a bit more savory. It was grand.

benfiddich7

I didn’t catch what was in this drink, but it was similar to the cream and kabocha from Gen Yamamoto. It was served in a bamboo vessel that the bartender himself had made. Small touches like this really give Benfiddich a lot of character.

benfiddich1

This drink contained freshly shredded ginger and gin. The ginger flavor was strong, but it did not have much of the heat tha toften comes with fresh ginger.

I almost feel like Benfiddich was Gen Yamamoto’s sister bar, though I do not believe they are affiliated. Like Gen Yamamoto, the bar counter itself is made from a single piece of wood, cut vertically from a tree, and apparently provided by the same company. The decor is rustic, and I felt like I was sitting inside a feudal Japanese apothecary, complete with old wooden lanterns.

The enthusiasm and ingenuity of the bartender really impressed me, and for this reason, Benfiddich was my favorite bar of the trip.


1 Comment

Bar High Five – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #3

Welcome to episode three of Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm). Today, we are visiting Bar High Five in Ginza.

I did not know what quite what to expect as I came in to Bar High Five. It is located in a bustling restaurant district in Ginza, on the fourth floor of a building full of bars and restaurants. The bar seats about ten, and there are a few small tables to the side. The wall is adorned with awards proclaiming High Five to be one of the fifty best bars in the world. Certainly, their customer service was matched only by Uyeda-san’s Bar Tender. The professionalism and dedication of the staff was truly a thing to behold.

highfive2

In terms of the drinks, they were not a “mixology” bar, but more in the classic style. As an adventurous drinker, it is my preference to ask for the bartender’s choice (so long as the bar is not too crowded), and Bar High Five was happy to oblige me. Among the drinks that I and my cohorts enjoyed were:

* A stirred drink made with rye, two types of ginger liqueur, and a black tea liqueur.
* An Alaska with VEP Green Chartreuse
* A Whiskey sour sweetened with grape liqueur
* A “Black Negroni” made with fernet instead of Campari, and garnished with a lemon peel.

They also served the black negroni and the grape whiskey sour to other guests who were in the bar, so I take it those drinks are among their house specialties. Indeed, the senior bartender told us that his grape whiskey sour was a competition winner.

I realized only after the fact that their customer service may have let me down in one minor way. On their website is a menu with some intriguing drinks, but when I and my compatriots entered the bar, they never gave us a menu nor implied that there might be one. It is a small thing, and it does not tarnish the experience, but had I known, I would have ordered differently.

highfive1

It is easy to understand why High Five has the reputation that it does. They serve classic drinks with perfect execution, and offer a level of customer service that I have never seen in an American bar. If you are looking for more exotic and adventurous drinks, they might not be the first on your list, but if you are looking for a quintessential experience of a Japanese cocktail bar, this is the place.


8 Comments

Mixology Bar Gen Yamamoto – Tokyo Craft Cocktail Series #1

Our first stop in what I’ve just now decided to call Measure and Stir’s Magical Mixological Journey in the Land of the Rising Sun(tm) was Gen Yamamoto in Azabu-Juban. For those of you who followed the link to the serious eats article, it was the only one they visited that is worth your time. Gen opens his bar at three pm, and we were the first to be seated. Immediately as I walked in, I was struck by the simple elegance and minimalism of the place. The walls are bare, and the only decoration is the beautiful wooden bar counter, which is made of only two pieces of wood cut vertically from a single tree. There are exactly eight seats, all at the bar.

Side note: Huge thanks to ulteriorepicure for letting me use some of his beautiful pictures for this post. You can see the full set of his pics on Flickr, it’s definitely worth a look. It is easy to tell which pictures are his because they are the ones that are well-lit and composed.

The menu at Gen lists only six drinks, which can be ordered a la carte, or as a four or six drink tasting menu. We opted to taste all six, of course. Gen’s drink-making philosophy really exemplifies my understanding of the Japanese approach to cuisine, which is to create flavors that are light, subtle, and thoughtful.

In Gen’s own words:

The tasting course reflects “shiki”, Japanese seasonality, using fresh ingredients while building on a progression of flavors and harmony.

Each drink contained a beautiful expression of a single spirit with a seasonal piece of produce. It is clear from Gen’s drinks and his service that he is very passionate about his work. He exemplifies the Measure and Stir Maxim: “Your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put in it.”

The order of the courses was also smartly chosen, which each drink flowing nicely into the next.

We started with a highball of gin, club soda, spices, and a house-made syrup of Kochi golden ginger. This was the most complicated drink in terms of flavor, because the spice syrup contained ginger, coriander, lemon grass, and clove, among other flavors.

I apologize, but I cannot remember the exact nature of the second drink. I think it used sake, yuzu from Chiba, and a green herb.

kumquats and shochu

The third drink was made with shochu, and a mix of cooked and raw kumquats from Kagawa. It was garnished with tiny pieces of daikon, cut into cubes. They had very little flavor, but provided an intriguing crunch

The fourth was made with vodka and muddled kiwi from Shizuoka Koryoku. In the past I have never cared for vodka, but it’s light and clean flavor is well-suited to Gen’s style, and this trip really helped me to discover its uses.

bloody mary

The fifth was a bloody Mary using an heirloom tomato grown by the Shizuoka Ishiyama family. Apparently it grows in winter. It was unusually sweet and fruity. The flavor of the fresh tomato was beautifully paired with a “rye vodka” (or an unaged rye??) and shiso leaf. This drink was truly spectacular.

We ended with a drink made of white kabocha (japanese pumpkin) from Chiba and a touch of cream. I shamelessly appropriated the above photo of it from DrTomostyle‘s twitter.

After touring through so many bars in Tokyo, I can say with confidence that this is one of the best. If you are anywhere near Azabu-Juban, it is not to be missed. Be warned, though, that it is a patient, contemplative experience. If you’re just looking for a quick drink, it’s probably not the place to go. If you are looking for an elevated experience of Japanese mixology, however, you can’t afford to miss it.


11 Comments

Tokyo Craft and Mixology Bars

Hello. Normally in this situation a blogger would write something like “I’m not dead, I swear!” but for me, I haven’t posted in three months, and I am clearly dead. Fortunately, I have been post-humously bar-crawling in Tokyo, a journey whose story I shall now recount for your imbibing pleasure. So mix yourself a zombie, ladies and gents, and let’s get reanimated.

As I was gearing up to go to Tokyo, I happened upon this Serious Eats article on the Tokyo cocktail scene. I was intrigued by several of the drinks therein, and I decided to add their recommendations to my list. In the course of my research, I quickly discovered that there is a paucity of resources for the intrepid international drinker looking to make his way through Tokyo. In this series of articles, I aim to (help to) fix that.

Japanese Cocktail Philosophy

I do not know exactly when Japanese bartending branched away from American bartending, but it is clear that when they picked up the art and the practice, it was a much earlier era. This is not to imply that there has been no cross-talk in the interim, but the average Japanese cocktail bar hearkens back to a forgotten era. The Japanese are dedicated students of the classics; their Martinis and Manhattans never lost their vermouth as they did in the states, and their old fashioned never sprouted wings and soda water and muddled pineapple.

All this is not to say that I never saw a bottle of Rose’s, but one certainly suspects that their gimlet was always made with fresh lime. I am aware that there is some debate within the cocktail community as to the truest nature of the gimlet: is a true gimlet a gin lime sour, or is it gin with lime cordial? But regardless, there was never a need for a cocktail revival in Japan, for the patient never died as he did in the USA.

But even though the drinks are classic, the Japanese have made the practice of bartending their own; their culture places a lot more weight on customer service than we do in the states. In a Japanese bar, every aspect of the experience is treated with gravity and precision. Nowhere is this better-illustrated than in Bar Tender, the bar of Kazuo Uyeda, who considers and perfects every motion that the bartender makes, so that doing his work is as much a dance as it is a drink service. There are prescribed ways to hold the jigger and the spoon, prescriptions about how to open the bottle, and where to place it upon the bar. But more on that later.

Another key difference is that the Japanese have lower alcohol tolerance, on average, than most of us Westerners. As such, the pours tend to be smaller, and the drinks tend to be lighter in both alcohol content and flavor. In my efforts to recreate some of the drinks I had on this trip, I have found that I use about one ounce of hard liquor per drink. Chasing a buzz in a Japanese bar can be a tricky proposition.

Subtle Flavors

Although the lightness of drinks is partly practical, it is also a deliberate aesthetic choice, which reflects a distinctly Japanese sensibility. On the internet I found this list of travel tips for a Japanese person visiting the US, and this line struck me:

American food is flat to the taste, indifferent in the subtle difference of taste. There is no such thing there as a little “secret ingredient.” Sugar, salt, pepper, oils, and routine spices are used for family meals.

The Japanese author of the post felt that US food is lacking in subtlety. As silly as it sounds, I carried and developed this awareness as I sat and drank in many Japanese bars. Their flavors lack the visceral punch of popular American cuisine, but they draw attention instead to what is delicate and nuanced. It almost becomes a game: to search in the soft and continuous space of the drink for the borders that delimit its character.

“Mixology” vs. “Cocktail Bar”

As I noted above, Japanese bars mostly stick to the classics, with some small variations. Most of the bars that break out into more modern and original styles, such as what you might find in the US, are called “mixology” bars. Molecular mixology techniques are common in such places. Indeed, the line between “mixology” and “molecular mixology” seemed to be quite blurry, as it is elsewhere.Regardless, “mixology” is the magic incantation that can coerce Japan to yield up its bartending treasures. “Craft Cocktail” did not get me very far.

Tune in tomorrow, where we will talk about some bars.