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slkinsey

Japanese Cocktail Technique Seminar : May 3-4

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Many of you may know that the good people over at Cocktail Kingdom are sponsoring a seminar on Japanese Cocktail Techniques.

This will be a two day event focusing on Japanese techniques in depth, and exploring the differences between Japaness techniques and Western techniques, among other things. All the things we've been talking about will be covered: the Hard Shake, stirring techniques, ice ball carving, and more. This will be a rare chance to ask questions and get answers directly from the source. Mud Puddle Books will also be publising the first English translation of Uyeda's book, Cocktail Technique.

From what I hear, the event is drawing bartenders from across the country. I predict that it will kick off a new focus on techniques in American mixology, and will likely be considered one of the seminal events in the cocktail world for this second decade of the 21st century.

If there are any questions you might have or topics you would like to see explored, why don't you post your thoughts here and someone who is attending will try to bring them up with Mr. Uyeda.


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Got to flip through a preview copy of Uyeda's book, Cocktail Technique, yesterday. Gorgeous little volume. Well-bound, heavy stock, full color photographs illustrating step-by-step tutorials of techniques. Handsome little bugger, can't wait to get my hands on a real one.


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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I am waiting for that book too. That and that he is putting a quality julep strainer up for sale which was supposed to happen some time back .......

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gallery_8505_276_1199638.jpg

Kazuo Uyeda at work

As previously stated, this seminar will feature Kazuo Uyeda. Mr. Uyeda is currently considered Japan's foremost bartender today. He is the most celebrated and revered among his peers, and his techniques and style have been admired and emulated not only in Japan but around the world. This seminar represents the first time he will be explaining his techniques and philosophies to a large American audience -- including, of course, the famous/infamous "hard shake."

Many questions will be addressed and answered that heretofore were only guessed at: What are the true goals and techniques of the "hard shake"? What is the Japanese conception of "texture" in a cocktail? What are their ideas as to temperature and dilution? What does the Japanese bartender consider the key aspects to consider in preparing a cocktail? To what extent is Japanese bartending driven by technique and technical execution rather than invention and creation of new recipes? Ice!

The seminar will be divided into two days. The first day will focus on Japanese techniques and philosophies, and will begin with an exploration of the Japanese bartending mindset and philosophy -- the "Way Of The Cocktail." Following that, there will be an exposition on basic Japanese cocktail techniques, including an in-depth look at the Japanese style of handling bottles and jiggers, freepouring techniques, stirring and shaking. The second day will focus on Mr. Uyeda's personal style, beginning with his thoughts on the role of color in cocktails. And of course, all aspects of his "hard shake" will be explored and explained in detail, including what equipment to use, how to develop and execute the "hard shake," what kind of ice to use, how to pour it out and how to judge your success.


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I'm terribly disappointed that I can't make it to the seminar myself -- though very glad Sam has agreed to step in and report on behalf of the Society.

Another question that's been on my mind: why in representations of craft Japanese bartending do we so often see spirits, liqueurs, and other products that, in the US, we generally consider to be of middling quality? Is the quality of those same products higher in Japan than in the US? Is ingredient quality less of a concern in craft Japanese cocktail culture than in craft US cocktail culture?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Most or all perceptions of "quality" are subjective. Various factors influence perception of quality.

One factor is context: a gin that works well in a martini is not necessarily a gin that works well in an Aviation. Or in tonic. Etc.

Then there are trends, and the degrees to which we are influenced by them. The eGullet forums show a fascinating evolution of mixological trends: from bone-dry vodka martinis early in the decade to Fitty-Fitties, to amari, to.... what next? I'm not saying all of these trends are illusory (I can't foresee a day when we ever go back to bottled sour mix) but the extent to which our tastes are influenced by prevailing trends is not to be underestimated. The current love affair with rye is a good example. It's a worthy spirit, but it also happens to be trendy right now, so people jump on board.

And then there's marketing (which is not really separate from trends, I suppose).

It's always amusing to me to hear Tanqueray and Beefeater spoken of as thought they are second-tier products. In fact, I would suggest that they are almost universally acknowledged as the two pinnacles of the London dry gin style

That's Sam on the New Generation Gins thread. Why do some people seem to think that Bombay Sapphire is as good as it gets, and wrinkle their noses at Beefeater? I imagine it's because the Sapphire bottle is a pretty blue - not because they've proven it to their satisfaction in double-blind taste tests.

As regards Japanese bars, I can't say I've noticed that products used in Japanese bars are lower quality. If anything, I've found the opposite: they use English-formula Gordon's (as opposed to the American formula), they have products like Suze and Unicum widely available, they have bourbons we've never even heard of, and the variety of obscure Scotches and rums found in specialty Japanese bars is... intimidating. Furthermore, Japanese bartenders are generally intimately familiar with all of their products.

As far as Uyeda is concerned, he says that he chooses brands less for their flavor than their "backbone". He doesn't believe that people drink a Gimlet for the subtleties and the flavor of the gin itself - much as someone who drinks a French 75 isn't looking for the subtleties of the champagne. Instead they're looking for the way that all the flavors add up, the synergy. Often that is best realized with products that have a certain, oh, "strength of character" might be a good way to translate it.

There's one caveat to the above: I do not understand all the blue Curacao. I just can't get my head around that one......


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

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Curious. But does the import market play a role at all? Are there obscure products (I'm thinking Haus Alpenz stuff) that aren't imported to Japan?

That the Japanese have access to bourbon that isn't available in America is quite mind-boggling to me, though certainly believable.

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Right. I never saw Haus Alpenz products (they may have arrived in the past year, but it doesn't seem likely) or Punt E Mes. I did see obscure (to Americans) European stuff, absinthes, Parfait Amour, the aforementioned Unicum, etc.

As far as bourbons go, don't quote me on that, I'm not sure exactly how the production and distribution is structured. I'm thinking here of I.W. Harper and Four Roses, which as far as I can learn are produced by Kirin (?!) but distributed by Diageo. For all I know those are common in some parts of the US and I just hadn't seen them before.


Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

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We can definitely get Four Roses around here.

I'm going to be very interested to learn what this "backbone" or "strength of character" is all about. I think that my two consistent house gins -- Beefeater and Tanqueray -- fall into that category, whatever it is.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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So here's a good video to prompt discussion:

That's a full 20s of shaking, about double, give or take, the usual US cocktailian shake. Uyeda also uses only the cobbler shaker and doesn't measure using jiggers or measuring cups: it's all by eye. Finally, he doesn't taste to see if he needs to adjust.

Gordon's, lime, and simple. Every time I watch these videos I think, "I'm really eager to taste this man's drinks and see how that all adds up." I have to wait until I'm in Tokyo in June; I hope that participants in this event can weigh in before then.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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There's a tweet making the rounds:

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

Anyone know what that means?

these japanese bars seem to love creating a heightened degree of civilization through exclusivity of their form rather than the drink itself.

your form isn't going to get its ass kicked by cultural relativism as much as appreciation for the drink itself. so shift your emphasis to where your effort goes farthest in making people happy. therefore focus on ice balls and not acquired tastes for inarticulate people with polarized food ways.

i wonder if these bars cater to the japanese or to westerners and if this explains how their style evolved.

with everything i've seen, i read that quote as "emphasize the process" because without having a history with them, an imbibers sense of harmony is too hard to pin down.

bartending can't really go much further until we develop more methods of being articulate about the experience of the finished product. i think we need a "plane conscious" method of examining spatial effect (depth!) in a drink (and culinary in general). the method explains how relationships between identifiable planes like sugar, acid, alcohol, bitter, temperature, and dissolved gas (etc.) effect perception. we can articulate with intuitive analogies relationships we like to see (we already somewhat do!) and start expanding imbibers sense of harmony.

there is no balance, there is only harmony. harmony is culturally relative. harmony can be catered to and expanded.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Departures Article

This explain a lot. In regards to the "cheaper ingredient" comment, I think this is stemming from the bols clue curacao bottle that I saw on one of the tender bar pictures - article says color is important and that was also on the agenda for the seminar.

The free-pour is mandated by the Nippon Bartenders Association , really an interesting articles.

Can't wait for the book to arrive.

Cheers

JK

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Interesting stuff about the visual elements, as well as about the ice. But some of it, well....

For his famed “coral” garnish, Kazuo Uyeda dips a Champagne glass in blue curaçao, then into an inch-deep bowl of salt. The crusty rim has more than just an aesthetic purpose: It also gives a salty kick to a sweet drink and introduces Japan’s much-cherished umami flavor.

Last I checked, salt introduces salty flavor, not umami. Perhaps that blue curaçao really is special.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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There's a tweet making the rounds:
"Respect the process of cocktail making, not the finished product." Kazuo Uyeda

Anyone know what that means?

Somewhat expectedly I have no idea what bostonapothecary means in his reply to this question. But, having been there when this was discussed, here is more or less what this quote from Uyeda means...

The thinking is that in the Western style we have this idea that the only important thing is the result, and we don't much care how we get there. So, for example, you can have fairly crap technique or an inconsistent approach to cocktail-making, but the Western bartender is happy if it is a great recipe and turns out okay.

The Japanese bartender, on the other hand, is mostly focused on the process of making the cocktail. And the idea is that if you focus on making the process as good, as consistent, as "right" as you can... the goodness of the cocktail will flow from that.

This is somewhat related to a point I brought up in the session, which is that the American cocktail scene is mostly focused on creating new recipes (most of the most famous and well-respected bartenders are revered for the recipes they created, not their amazing stirring technique) whereas the Japanese cocktail scene is mostly focused on technique and the recipes can seem a bit simple and naively passé to an American cocktailian. But, of course, the recipe isn't really the point. Good examples might be, say, Audrey Saunders and Kazuo Uyeda. It's not that Uyeda doesn't care about recipes or that Audrey doesn't care about technique. But their fame rests on the other side of their games. In some ways, their approaches to the main focus of their craft is strikingly similar. Uyeda is al about refining the shake again and again and again to make the Sidecar as good as his technical shaking ability can make it, and Audrey is well known for refining cocktail recipes through 40+ iterations to drive it off the cliff and get it just where she wants it.


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>>Somewhat expectedly I have no idea what bostonapothecary means in his reply to this question<<

I think he is asking for a language similar to that is used to describe wine. I am still thinking if I like this.

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I am not sure what bostonapothecary is trying to say.

Whatever that tweet seemed to imply, Uyeda is not saying that the product is not important. He's saying the process, and the reverence for the process, is equally important.

And I would argue that separating the process from the product is pointless. The product is simply the inevitable final step of a well-executed process.

ETA some stuff.


Edited by Kohai (log)

Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

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Whatever that tweet seemed to imply, Uyeda is not saying that the product is not important. He's saying the process, and the reverence for the process, is equally important.

And I would argue that separating the process from the product is pointless. The product is simply the inevitable final step of a well-executed process.

Right. And I think he was saying that the intense focus on the cocktail execution process (shaking, stirring, holding the bottles, etc.) is part of the Japanese "way of the cocktail," as he put it. It certainly does seem to be the case that Japanese bartenders under this paradigm are spending far more time in consideration of how to make, for example, a Sidecar better and better and better not by figuring out the perfect ratio of lemon to Cointreau or by selecting an incredibly fancy Cognac, but rather by refining their cocktail execution process. The idea is to take the same amounts of the same exact ingredients, and make them taste better by improving your process. Here we have focused on the shaking techniques, but I should hasten to point out that Uyeda made clear that shaking is only one element of the overall cocktail process, much of which involves the psychological preparation of the imbiber for what is to come. So, the idea then is that the process is the focus.

To make a comparison, consider golf: You can go to the driving range and try to hit some long balls. One way is to think mostly about the result: The ball didn't go as long as I wanted it to on that last swing... try to hit a longer one this time. The idea, I suppose, is that in doing this your process will adapt to making the longer shot. Or, another way, is not to focus much about the length of the shot at all, but rather to focus intensely on the process: how good was your swing. And the idea is that if you refine your swing to make it as good as possible, then you will hit the ball a longer distance.

It's an interesting balancing act. Someone who is intensely focused on process often ends up deciding to spend all his time on the driving range refining his swing, or making one kind of wood chair, or shaking out the perfect Sidecar, or making two kinds of ramen. And these things can all be awesome. But, at the same time, that person may be a golfer with not much of a short game, or someone who can't make a table, or someone who hasn't created any interesting cocktail recipes, or someone who can't fry an egg. In between, of course, there are all kinds of possible combinations. The elite golfers, for example, spend hours and hours refining the process of all the various aspects of their game, and also in practicing the mental and strategic flexibility to handle whatever the course throws at them. And so it all depends on where your interests lie, and different ways of conceptualizing your craft.

More later... Interesting stuff.


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Thanks, Sam. I'm interested to hear you talk more about this (emphasis mine):

The idea is to take the same amounts of the same exact ingredients, and make them taste better by improving your process. Here we have focused on the shaking techniques, but I should hasten to point out that Uyeda made clear that shaking is only one element of the overall cocktail process, much of which involves the psychological preparation of the imbiber for what is to come. So, the idea then is that the process is the focus.

I'm struck by this approach to hospitality, and to the cultivation of a customer relationship that is quite different though no more or less professional than that espoused by, say, Gary Regan or Dale DeGroff. I can't quite put my finger on it; I'm tempted to say it's very Japanese but I'm not sure what that means beyond some generalization of friendly, courteous, attentive customer service. Chummy it is not.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I wonder how much of the process is the result of a "change the things I can" mentality. Is/was the import situation such a hurdle to overcome that recipe creation is significantly hindered? Is the cultural attitude toward classic vs. new cocktails such that effort expended on innovative recipes would be better spent on innovative shaking/stirring methodology for preparing the classics?


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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The free-pour is mandated by the Nippon Bartenders Association , really an interesting articles.

This is something I don't understand. If it's all about (or 50% about, or 75% about) technique and the rest about the finished product, how much consistency can be achieved with the free-pour?

As been argued in these pages over and over, a great bartender uses jiggers in order to achieve consistency, in much the same way a baker uses a scale to achieve the same.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I have no special knowledge of things Japanese, except from the few acquaintances that I have. That admitted, is it fair to look at tea (American dunk-a-teabag or English make a pot versus Japanese tea ceremony)? The Japanese event is at least as much about the experience and the preparation -- maybe more -- than about the actual beverage.

Or consider sushi at the sushi bar, if you've ever had the experience of going with first generation Japanese person and having the chef make things on his whim. There is a lot about the beauty of the knife work -- probably more creativity and skill than the "recipe", compared to a more western sushi experience, which might have novel combinations or ingredients made out of your sight and plunked down by the server.

I guess I would have to experience the Japanese cocktail scene to appreciate it. Yes, I would like to put on a nice little show in my kitchen for my guests. But I'm pretty sure that they care a lot more about what's in the glass than how it got there. A very lot more. An American point of view, it would seem. In a good way.

And to put salt in the wound, I'm not sure even the most perfectly made Daiquiri is going to excite me as much as something new and challenging (like the Martinez variation a bartender whipped up for me with Punt e Mes, Campari, and 2 kinds of bitters). I was thrilled and excited. I didn't see it made.

I'm a barbarian. I taste with my mouth, not my eyes.


Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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