Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 29, 2010

Tender Bar’s Boston Cooler

I’ve already written about my visit to Bar High Five in Tokyo. It was an incredible experience – truly one of the most enjoyable visits to a cocktail bar anywhere in the world. But the night before I went with Lori and my parents to Kazuo Uyeda’s Tender Bar. Uyeda is one of Japan’s legendary bartenders – the pioneer of the hard shake and representative of the pinnacle of the classic Japanese style of bartending. His book, Cocktail Techniques, was recently translated to English and is now for sale at Cocktail Kingdom. I read it and it’s a pretty interesting look at his style and philosophy behind the stick, though it’s a bit heavy on pseudo-science when explaining why his techniques work.

Tender Bar, like most other bars in Japan, is inside a low-rise building that houses other bars. There are almost no street-level bars in Japan. To go to a bar, you have to usually enter what looks like an apartment or small office building, ride the elevator to the appropriate bar, and enter an apartment-sized bar. Tender Bar had about 30 seats, Bar High Five had about 15. At Tender Bar, Uyeda-san and his staff dress in white jackets and black pants. Everything about the setting is formal, from the style of dress to the techniques used to make drinks. Every movement Uyeda makes is precise. While he has another person behind the bar with him, they only prep ingredients or do the most basic highballs. Everything else is his work.

While we had a few rounds at Tender Bar, one drink that stood out was their Boston Cooler.

Boston Cooler

45 mL Light Rum
15 mL lemon juice
1 tsp simple syrup
Ginger Ale

Combine rum, lemon juice and syrup in an ice-filled shaker and shake. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with ginger ale and garnish with a lemon peel.

If you wanted to convert this to English measurements, the equivalent is about 1.5 oz rum to 0.5 oz lemon juice.

What made this cocktail so great was actually the ginger ale. We found in Japan that ginger ale – whether a domestic brand or Canada Dry – was consistently more flavorful than American ginger ale. It approached ginger beer, though I would be wary about subbing in a ginger beer that had too much spice – what you’re looking for is a gingery, but not peppery ginger beer if you want to capture the Japanese style of ginger ale.

The cocktails at Tender Bar were precise and superb. Despite its more formal attitude more akin to a shrine, it was still a really fun experience. While I thoroughly enjoyed the quality of cocktails at both Tender Bar and Bar High Five, I did have a lot more fun at Bar High Five, hanging out with Hidetsugu Ueno and talking throughout the night. Ueno’s style of interaction with customers is just more akin to what we have in the US. I highly recommend visiting Tender Bar, too, but will be headed back to Bar High Five first the next time I’m in Tokyo.

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Responses

  1. I’m curious about the “psuedo-science.” Can you give an example?

    Also, is there a cocktail book or bartender out there who practices/preaches actual science in their craft? Like a molecular gastronomist of the cocktail world?

  2. I don’t have the book with me, so I can’t give a specific quote now, but basically the pseudo-science relates a lot to how different shaking and stirring methods (notably, his) are better than other methods at doing things like combining ingredients, making them cold, adding air and texture, etc. A lot has to do with the hard shake method of getting ice to hit specific walls of a shaker in a specific order to achieve these results. Some more comes in when he talks about specific temperatures different cocktails should be served at. Basically it’s a lot of his preference being made normative for all bartenders and done so in a very authoritative tone.

    Yes, there absolutely are a lot of bartenders who use more precise science in their craft. Much research has been done about comparative methods of shaking or stirring to achieve different levels of cold, as well as research into how to make ice cold and hard. There are also people who do molecular cocktails – in DC, Todd Thrasher of PX, Owen Thomson of Cafe Atlantico and Gina Chersevani of PS7s all do some molecular cocktails. The guys at The Aviary in Chicago also do some really cool molecular stuff.


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