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Issue 88 - The way of the cocktail

Whisky Magazine Issue 88
June 2010


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The way of the cocktail

Liza Weisstuch meets the Japanese master of the bartending world.

This is a travel story that could be mistaken for being not a travel story.

This is what happens when a destination – in this case, a person, a pillar of the Eastern bartending world – comes to you instead of you having to trek halfway around the planet to visit him. Well, let's make one thing clear: Kazuo Uyeda, who's 66 and agile, did not make his first public appearance in New York for me alone. Uyeda, who's been bartending in Japan for 45 years, won countless cocktail competitions, invented a cocktail-making technique that's mimicked by many, understood by few, and authored cocktail books, still works six nights a week behind the stick at Tender, his bar in Ginza, Tokyo. In May, he visited Manhattan to lead a two-day seminar, Japanese Bartending Technique.

Nearly 150 of the country's leading bartenders were in attendance. They flew in from cities as far flung as Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and Seattle. The attentive group of drink-makers sat rapt for two six hour sessions, listening to Uyeda through translators who provided a running English explanation piped in on United Nations-style headsets.

While, like Bill Murray in the much lauded movie in which his despairing character famously sipped Japanese whiskey, some tips of wisdom were likely lost in translation. Perhaps the real-time translators oversimplified, but to just read a transcript, you would find a spiel that seems like it was delivered by the new age motivational speaker of bartendi...

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