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Issue 104 - Behind the stick

Whisky Magazine Issue 104
June 2012


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Behind the stick

Dave finds himself on the other side of the bar, dispensing wisdom and drams

It's one thing being positioned in front of a bar; it is my default seating you could say.

Being behind the stick once more is a rare occurrence, a thankfully rare one many would say, but when a chance came to dust off those hard-won skills I couldn't resist. What bar-fly could turn down the opportunity to work a bar in Tokyo's Golden Gai?

I've written about this weird republic of Tokyo bars before, but for those of you who were asleep at the back, Golden Gai is a former red-light district in Shinjuku which now contains in excess of 200 bars compressed into the space of a city block. That means that they are small, even by Tokyo standards, but I was delighted to discover that my bar was full to bursting with six punters downstairs and the same number in the loft. I squeezed behind the bar, popped on a mix of George Jones, The Band, The Dead and Kathleen MacInnes on the iPod, and began dispensing drams and chat.

The punters were, as you might expect, an eclectic mix: bloggers, geeks, bartenders, locals and gaijin. Among them was an impressivelybearded Norwegian called Halvor who I could tell instantly knew his way around my side of the premises: the raised eyebrows as I tried to dispense snacks and position the correct bottle in front of the right drinker spoke volumes.

He began telling me of his bar in Oslo called Fuglen [] which operates as a topend coffee house (though not in the Dutch sense) during the day, then transforms itself into a bar at night. What'...

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