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An interesting glimpse into a Japanese cocktail master
on April 13, 2011
Kazuo Uyeda is a legendary bartender and is perhaps most known for inventing the "hard shake" (there are plenty of videos depicting it online). Simply, it "means shaking the shaker in an intricate pattern," with the ultimate goal of creating aeration in order to soften the bite of the alcohol and other ingredients. There are 9 pages, with pictures, dedicated to introducing the hard shake, its proper execution, and gauging the appropriate context for its use - it's not a technique for every shaken drink. There are another 40 pages which discuss ice (including how to make spheres), glasses, proper technique for handling a bottle, rimming, and stirring experiments (including intricate details like the correlation between the number of stirs and type of ice to the temperature and dilution of a drink. I have not seen data like this except in the Cooking Issues blog run by Dave Arnold of the French Culinary Institute). The Japanese have a stereotype for being obsessive perfectionists when it comes to crafts, and it is very evident in this book - that's a good thing. Whether or not you buy into the hard shake and other techniques presented, it provides a welcome glimpse into the world of Japanese cocktails with its attention to detail and the preference for "subtle shadings over the impact of one strong flavor."
The second portion of the book (about 125 pages) focuses on cocktail recipes, and thankfully includes a photo for every drink listed (I'm seriously coveting some of the glassware used). There are 30 standard cocktails, which is not nearly an exhaustive list - for instance, there are only 3 whiskey drinks in this section. I don't think that's a bad thing since the point of this book is to present Uyeda's vision. Hence, for each standard cocktail, there is a standard recipe as well as Uyeda's version with specific recommendations for brands (thankfully, most of the brands are affordable, like Gordon's and Beefeater). He includes a bit of history for each drink and a rationale for why he tweaks the standard recipe.
The recipes continue on to 31 original cocktails, most of which were created by Uyeda for competitions or as gifts for guests. Most of them are eye-catching and strikingly-colored (there are 3 pages on cocktail color theory). There is liberal use of colorful ingredients like blue curaçao, green melon liqueur, watermelon juice, Japanese grenadine, and gold leaf. Often, they're mixed with ingredients uncommon in American cocktails, like puolukka (lingonberry liqueur), pampelmuse (grapefruit vodka), mirabell plum brandy, green tea liqueur, cherry blossoms, and sake. The overall effect is a slight nudge towards a pastel palette and a uniqueness which will be unfamiliar to most of us in North America. It also makes many of these drinks inaccessible to being mixed by most, but perhaps they aren't really supposed to be. After all, they are the creation of a master who has devoted his life to his craft. Just pay a visit to Tender bar in Tokyo and request a Cosmic Coral from Uyeda.