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slkinsey

Japanese Cocktail Technique Seminar : May 3-4

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What I find interesting is, even with a 3oz shot you have a hard time filling a standard cocktail glass. Most I have are 8oz or more with the Riedel 4.5oz a near perfect exception.

His glass doesn't look tiny yet full in the video even before adding the ice. In his book he is saying that the prolonged hard shake doesn't water the cocktail down, which to me means the aeration must be adding the volume.

Also I can not believe they use 2oz on stirred drinks, lets say a Manhattan. It would look funny.


Edited by jk1002 (log)

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What I find interesting is, even with a 3oz shot you have a hard time filling a standard cocktail glass. Most I have are 8oz or more with the Riedel 4.5oz a near perfect exception.

Something akin to the Libby Embassy 4.5 ounce coupe seems to be the standard in NYC. I don't have any difficulty filling this appropriately full with a shaken cocktail that starts out at 3.0 - 3.5 ounces. Around 3 ounces is the standard American pre-dilution volume in cocktail bars, with some rare exceptions. This is why, for example, Pegu Club and some other bars have the practice of decanting half of large volume Martinis into a little glass caraffe that sits in a bowl of crushed ice: (1) because they don't want the oversized drink to get warm before it's finished; and (2) because the drink won't fit into any of their glassware.

Keep in mind that with a V-shape or coupe shape, there is likely to be little visual difference between a 3.6 ounce pour (20% dilution on 3 ounces of booze) and a 4.25 ounce pour (25% dilution on 3.5 ounces of booze) in the glass. The larger pour will appear to fill the glass all the way to the top whereas the smaller pour will have a tiny collar.

His glass doesn't look tiny yet full in the video even before adding the ice. In his book he is saying that the prolonged hard shake doesn't water the cocktail down, which to me means the aeration must be adding the volume.

I'll get into that later, but suffice it to say that I don't agree with his assessment as to increased dilution with a prolongued hard shake. It also seems possible that his glassware is smaller. Certainly the glassware he's using is far smaller than 8 ounce birdbaths. I have had no trouble filling my standard Libbey coupes appropriately using a hard shake with 2 - 2.5 ounces of ingredients to start. Some of that is in the form of floating ice chips, and some is in the form of added dilution. I don't believe aeration alone (as opposed to stable foaming as when cream and/or eggs are used) could possibly be responsible for the increased volume I am observing.

Also I can not believe they use 2oz on stirred drinks, lets say a Manhattan. It would look funny.

Flipping through the book, it's hard to tell what the volumes are exactly, because most of the cocktails are listed in "parts" rather than absolute volumes. That said, I am reliably told that 2 ounces is the standard cocktail pour in Japan. More to the point, all the recipes in the book that do specify volumes come out to 2 ounces plus one teaspoon or less. This is important to understand because many of his recipes call for something like: 4 parts scotch, 1 part Cointreau, 1 part fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon blue curacao. Needless to say, if you don't have an idea as to the total volume of the other three ingredients, the 1 teaspoon of blue curacao will not have the desired effect.

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A few thoughts. And by the way, fantastic diagrams, Sam.

I believe the bar at Tender seated about twelve to fifteen. Eight definitely seems small to my memory.

2 ounces does indeed seem to be about standard for most cocktail bars in Japan. Seriously, they're tiny.

One of the key differences between stirring and shaking is that stirring is believed to bring out the characteristic flavors of spirits, or at least leave them intact. Shaking subdues them more, takes the edge off of things. Shaken cocktails are more about creating a new flavor out of several ingredients; stirring is more for pointing up those ingredients' existing flavors.

To me, ordering original cocktails at Tender almost misses the point. This ties into a theme throughout the seminar, that Westerners are always trying to do new things and make new flavors where the Japanese are more into perfecting the classics. Whether or not this generalization is true, one good thing about classic cocktails is that they are reference points. We can compare Uyeda's Sidecar to anyone else's Sidecar and see how they differ.

After the end of the second day of the seminar, when we were doing the photo shoots and final interviews, etc., Uyeda made a Gimlet for a photographer. It sat untouched on the table after the photographer had packed up and after a few minutes I could resist no longer and took a sip.

Without the bartender's performance, the micromanaged environmental influences, and even after sitting on the table for something like five minutes - it was still an incredible Gimlet. I don't know what, exactly, but he's onto something.

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'"Respect the process of cocktail making, not the finished product." Kazuo Uyeda'

Is that a real quote?

Considering that the Japanese cocktails are usually green or blue in color, I'd not be too terrifically surprised if this was a valid quote...but it would still surprise me a little bit because this quote negates what to me is the most important part of the cocktail, which is "the finished product".

Here in the 'States and in Europe there are many contests featuring cocktails, but none featuring "the process of cocktail making", instead, their contests feature that process...

Recently I was invited to a three day course hosted by Plymouth gin and taught by Nikka's Stanislav Vadrna, and there we were shown a seven-move process for opening and pouring spirits... Very interesting. And, that's nothing on the 'hard shake' method...

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'"Respect the process of cocktail making, not the finished product." Kazuo Uyeda'

Is that a real quote?

I wouldn't say it is a direct word-for-word quote, no. Rather it's a tweet someone made from the seminar and attributed to Uyeda.

I discussed this very thing here upthread.

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One more piece of hard shake-related technique before I move on to discussing claims, philosophy, results and my reactions: decanting the shaken cocktail.

The main technique when using the cobbler shaker is that you have to swirl and twist the shaker as you pour it out in order to avoid clogging the strainer with ice and restricting the flow. The position of the strainer when decanting will determine whether and to what extent ice crystals are held back in the shaker.

Uyeda says that the formation of fine ice crystals is not a goal of the hard shake technique, but rather a side effect. Nevertheless, the presence of fine ice crystals on the surface of his shaken drinks has clearly become a hallmark of Uyeda's style. In order to pass through lots of fine ice crystals, the cobbler shaker is held upside-down over the glass and vigorously swirled/twisted. If you would rather minimize the presence of ice crystals, the cobbler shaker is held in a mostly horizontal position, slightly angled down towards the strainer, and is gently twisted. This way, the ice crystals are held back in the shoulder of the shaker.

I've found that the natural clogging action of a cobbler shaker makes it relatively easy to make the "perfect pour" so long as you are in the ballpark with your starting volumes. This is because additional twisting will almost always produce a bit more ice crystals to finish filling the glass, whereas ceasing with any twisting and holding the shaker at 45 degree angle will almost always clog the strainer if you're worried about over-filling the glass. Either way, it's not rocket science to appear that you have made the perfect pour every time.

Uyeda has a nice flourish he does at the end, holding the shaker more or less horizontal as the last few drops come out, then drawing it up and away from the glass, and snapping the ice to the back of the shaker with a quick sideways-and up jerk in the direction of the strainer end.

As I've learned, it's a good idea to have one figer above the shoulder of the strainer piece when decanting upside-down and/or performing the final snap, otherwise there is the real risk of the strainer piece coming off. I am given to understand that dumping out a shaker full of ice onto the bar when decanting or sending the strainer piece flying across the room with the final snap are considered undesirable results. :-)


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Uyeda has a nice flourish he does at the end, holding the shaker more or less horizontal as the last few drops come out, then drawing it up and away from the glass, and snapping the ice to the back of the shaker with a quick sideways-and up jerk in the direction of the strainer end.

This exemplifies my favorite thing about Japanese style, that is well, style.

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http://imbibe.com/blogs/a-new-york-bartender/2010-05/ninja-cocktails

I’m not sure what’s happening over there in ole Blighty, but it seems that the Japanese style of bartending is getting a hell of a lot of air time here in the US and beyond, led, strangely enough by Slovak Stanislav Vardna. And I’m not exactly sure why. More on that later. A few weeks back, Greg Boehm of Mud Puddle Books and CocktailKingdom.com (which you should all check out) flew over Kazuo Uyeda, ‘master bartender’, and one of the most famous in Japan. He closed his acclaimed Tokyo bar, Tender Bar, for the week to address American professionals on his widely publicized and unique style and philosophies that have been accrued over four decades behind the stick.

At almost $700 for a ticket to this 2 day seminar (which could have easily been done in one day), it was a lot of cash to part with. Stan Vardna has become the western poster boy for Japanese bartending after spending some time in Japan under Uyeda, calling him his ‘spiritual advisor’. He gave an introduction on the spirituality associated with Japanese bartending and how we need to pay attention to our guests from the moment they open the door to the moment they leave. Really? This is what $700 is going to get those poor souls who did pay.

Uyeda took the stage in all his revelry, looking immaculate in his signature canary yellow blazer and tiny spectacles. We all had UN-style ear pieces where the translation was immediate. He went through his many mantras, most of which were cryptic, others obvious, while some I whole heartedly disagreed with, especially the one where he said that “it’s about the process and not the product or the result”. Huh? I thought it was ALL about the result and the importance of product in getting that result. Well it is for me. I couldn’t give a toss how you make my Martini. Does it taste any good?

Many of his philosophies and techniques cannot be employed by any bartender that attended. The material is so venue specific to his particular bar. I was one of only a couple of people in the room who had actually been to his bar, and the only one that had been on several different trips. To be honest, it’s rather boring, not very hospitable, ridiculously expensive, backward in its drinks and his signature cocktail is blue with a sugar rim. I asked for an Aviation (not a difficult or even obscure drink by today’s standards) and got a blank stare.

Over the two days we learnt how to open a bottle. We were taught how to use colours such as Midori to great effect. We were re-united with the Grasshopper cocktail. We were given a lesson in stirring. And he showed us how to carve an ice ball. But everyone was here to see his famous ‘hard shake’. I won’t wax lyrical about the intricacies behind this confusing technique here. Both Google and YouTube might explain this better than I ever could. Does it make a better tasting drink? The jury is still out on that but I sit firmly in the ‘no’ camp.

Don’t get me wrong here. This is nothing personal against Uyeda. Watching him work is a thing of beauty and if each us could be more meticulous, attentive and clean in our work like him, then all the better. But I just don’t understand the fuss. Japan has some incredible bars but we are enamoured by them because they are so different. Tiny, impossible to find places with all sorts of spirits we’ve never seen, jamon carved to order, a bartender with a funny shake and some hand carved ice. They are not better by any stretch.

Classic cocktails (well some of them), made with absolute precision and served up in pristine and delicate glassware is the order of the day in Japan. Martinis, Manhattans, Sidecars, Daiquiris and several others in this ubiquitous genre are what you’ll find mostly. That and awful neon coloured disco drinks that don’t deserve any more ink on this page than that. Stick with the former, or some amazing whiskies, and you’ll have some of the most memorable experiences of your life. I did.

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