Apr 1, 2015

Japanese Cocktail Concoctions

With cocktail bars mushrooming across the country, people in Singapore are
spoiled for choice when it comes to cocktail options. But what exactly sets Japanese cocktails apart from the rest? We find out from 3 top Japanese mixologists.


Forget your Mai Tais or Cosmopolitans. Discerning imbibers are now eschewing the usual suspects when it comes to cocktails and making a beeline for artisanal cocktails. Made with precision and ingénue, these designer concoctions are often prepared with homemade tinctures, exotic flowers or fancy molecular gastronomy-inspired techniques. Each drink is a work of art, from the painstaking selection of ingredients to the thoughtful presentation style. And of course, when it comes to elaborate rituals and rules, nobody does it better than the Japanese.

The Craft of Cocktails

When watching a Japanese mixologist at work, you can’t help but think of the Japanese term – “kodawari”. Translated loosely as striving for unreachable perfection through endless practice, repetition, and attention to detail, this trait is evident in each of the cocktail maestros featured in the following pages. In Japan, long apprenticeships are the norm for those pursuing high-level work. A trainee often has to spend years honing basic skills like free pouring or ice carving before they can even start preparing drinks.

Japanese culture favours balance and harmony, and this translates to Japanese cocktails as well. Each drink has to be well balanced, without any taste note standing out from the rest. Because of this desire for balance, you’ll notice the levels of alcohol in Japanese cocktail recipes tend to be slightly lower than Western recipes. Every detail of the drink is taken into consideration, from the colour (muted pastel hues are preferred) to the type of glassware used.

Every artisanal cocktail tells a story, and it’s fascinating to discover the amount of thought that goes into each tipple. The next time you pop by any of the three bars featured in the following pages, be sure to chat up your friendly mixologist and find out about the inspiration behind his art.

(Text Vanessa Tai Photography Raymond Toh/Vineyard Production)

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