Bartending at the highest level has always been as much about the Bartender as the drinks they make. We asked a few questions to some of the biggest personalities in the global bar scene (who have graced the main Stage at BCB) about what makes them tick and what the are working on right now…
From Angus Winchester
“Ueno-San” is one of the five Godfathers of the Japanese cocktail scene (alongside Mori-San, Kishi San, Uyeda-san and Hoshi-San) and perhaps the best known in the West due to his superior English speaking skills. He runs Bar High Five in Ginza Tokyo that has been high in the Worlds Best Bars list every year of its existence. He is planned to come to BCB 2020 and run series of ‘hand-on’ workshops on Japanese Bartending techniques. He took a few minutes to answer a few questions for us…
Angus:So I saw you have had to close the bar due to government restrictions... how does a Japanese Master Bartender like yourself keep himself busy during lock down?
Searching everywhere to raise money to qualify for a business loan to help the bar to survive. I don't go negotiate anyone such as landlords or suppliers for discounts and deferrals because everyone needs money. I am also working on my website and e-mail system which I haven't done many years. Plus I am cleaning and rearranging my storage and re-arranging shelf to kill time.
Angus:You have been at the forefront of helping feed Western bartenders’ fascination with Japanese bartending technique for well over 10 years...how well do you think we are doing learning it?
The situation for bartending here and there is different and I always feel that bartenders should have their own style, technique and philosophy, so no need to copy Japanese style tho it’s flattering if they want to understand the Japanese Way of Bartending. Maybe it's more surprising and positive that they start talking about "hospitality" more than before as that’s a key component of bartending everywhere.
Angus: Have you seen any adaptions/improvements in technique when Japanese is combined with Western techniques?
The bartending is( ohne is?) from Western countries is the original way anyway but I have seen some bars here "imitate" Western style like Western bars "imitate" Japanese style.
Angus:Are there any "classic" cocktails popular in Japan that are less popular in Western bars? And the recipe for at least one...
According to Nippon Bartenders' Association annual "Cocktail Ranking", I see the Gin Ricky is the second most popular long cocktail but I've never seen it overseas in my travels on menus. Typically, half lime on the bottom of tumbler with Gin & soda. We typically put muddler into glass.
Angus:How important is 'proper' technique for the bartending experience? How important is the drink compared to service in your opinion?
I know the proper technique makes the taste different, so it's super important as we make money out of it being memorable. I can't compromise the quality of drinks we serve. But at the same time, the service makes the taste different as well. I believe it's absolutely influential to the taste. So, I can't compromise the quality of service we offer. I don't think people come back for the drinks, they come back for the service. So, you have to give best service to make people to come back. Otherwise they don't come back even if you make very good drinks.
Angus:You travel a lot (when allowed to).. what cities have you visited recently have you been impressed with the bar scene?
I have been a big fan of German Bartending scene and bartenders. You might think it strange when I say that I feel very familiar and comfortable with their way of thinking when I talk to them. But I do.
Angus: Will Coronavirus change Japanese bars at all after it's over?
Hope not. We are very patient people, so we go back normal routine when it's over.
Angus:If you were allowed to open for one night and fly in 8 guests to sit at your bar who would they be?
Mr. Angus Winchester, Mr. Colin Chia (owner of several bars in Singapore and partner with Ueno in a bar in Bangkok), Mr. Nick Wu (Owner of Bar Mood in Taipei), Midori Cato (coordinator for Tokyo International Bar Show and other Japanese bar events) and the four most regular Regulars who support us every month.
Angus:While you don’t drink very much what would your Quarantine Bottle be? Which is the one/only bottle that you would/have taken with you that would magically refill when its emptied?
Angus: You have been to several BCBs... what is your best memory of it?
Getting to spend time with Mr. Joerg Meyer. And when I did my first talk in 2009 and looked up and saw 100's and 100's of people in front of me for my session… I felt like a super star! That was fun.