Words by: Ian Cameron
Tokyo's Kazuo Uyeda of Tender Bar in Ginza is equally famous for inventing the hard shake as for remaining fiercely private. Thanks to Bar High Five's Hidetsugu Ueno, CLASS secured an exclusive interview: many thanks to Ueno-San for acting as our go-between and translator. He's clearly a man of few words - and we didn't have a chance to ask some follow-up questions - but the words he utters are undoubtedly wise ones: it's all about technique and tradition, and he's got short shrift for those that try and copy the hard shake.
Why do you believe so strongly that the process - not just the ingredients - of making cocktails can contribute to the flavour of a drink?
Cocktail flavour depends on how you shake for shaken cocktails - and how you stir for stirred cocktails.
How important is it for a bartender to have expensive equipment? Is it possible to perform just as well with simple equipment?
Equipment is not so important. The point is how you use it.
Why is a three-piece shaker preferable to a Boston and tin, or two tins?
If you realize how important shaking and mixing are, you will naturally notice that only the three-piece shaker could work out.
What do you think is more important - cocktail-making technique or customer service? Or are they closely related?
Both are needed in bars: there are various ways of using each, according to the style of each bar.
How does it feel to be recognized as a pioneer in terms of Ginza-style cocktail technique?
I hope that my cocktail-making technique is conveyed the right way to all across the world.
Do you enjoy all the attention that Japanese bartending as a concept is getting these days? Or do you worry that the concept may become diluted?
I think it's a good thing if Japanese bartending is understood in the right way.
How has the status of bartending as a profession in Japan changed over your career?
It is getting recognized a little but it still has a way to go.
How have your customers' drinking tastes changed over the years?
I don't feel much has changed.
Is there a cocktail that is more closely associated with you than any other?
The Martini and the Gimlet.
What are the qualities or details that you look for when you walk into a bar (one that is not your own)?
I don't know because I've never been to the other bars.
What elements of Western bartending do you think Japanese bartenders should learn from?
Unfortunately, I don't know about the overseas bar scene.
Are there any new techniques that you would like to perfect yourself?
I want to do nothing but improve my own methods and to keep trying to reach the summit of a mountain.
The hard shake is rarely performed well outside of Ginza in Tokyo - though it is certainly becoming an international phenomenon. Who performs the best hard shake in your opinion?
There are a lot of person who copy me but there is no one else but me to do the hard shake. The hard shake is rare technique which I only can do.