Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Making a Zen Cocktail

Actually, veteran Tokyo bartender Kazuo Ueda doesn't drink.

As a junior high school student, he collapsed after he drank a cocktail made by his older brother.

But at the same time, he was attracted to the cool style.

Ueda said he was attracted to bartending because he couldn't drink.

When he gets a shaker in his hand, his gentle demeanor suddenly changes. In his personal "hard shake" technique, the cocktail is made by shaking long and vigorously.

The technique was even introduced in a New York Times special feature on cocktails.

"If you just shake hard, the ice melts and it becomes watery. The key is to make it mild by creating bubbles in the liquor," Ueda, 66, said.

It is hard to explain, but when you drink it, your taste buds will tell the tale.

Ueda took top honors the first time he entered Japan's national cocktail competition in 1980. The following year, he won the silver medal at the world championships in Germany.

He has written 10 books about the art. He says his compilation "Cocktail Technique" covers all there is to know about making cocktails. This spring, it was translated into English.

In May, at the invitation of a U.S. group which runs a website about cocktails, he held a seminar in New York for professional bartenders.

He explained, "The Japanese 'cocktail way' is to give importance to both the technical and spiritual aspects."

They applauded him, with one attendee saying, "For Ueda, cocktails are both life and art."

Before making a cocktail, he looks carefully at his customer's face. This ritual enables him "to concentrate on making a cocktail for that person."

"True professionals devote their lives to creating the perfect drink. I want people to appreciate the flavor," he said.

He has no hobbies. Every day at Tender, a bar in Tokyo's Ginza, he aims for ever greater heights.

1 comment:

  1. Ken was featured in Whiskey Magazine last month, great article


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