Friday, October 22, 2010


The next time you order a drink "shaken, not stirred," brace yourself for some embarassment.

(photo: Tony Law)
  This and other lessons are readily available from Hugh Garvey's Bon Appetit piece on Tokyo, the new (or old) cocktail capital of the world.  Having grown up in Canada, I have been an ardent beer drinker for much of my adult life, and the fact that Tokyo just up'ed and conquered the world of spirits was news to me.  This is a story of hand carved ice cubes, of introducing Asian flavours, of innovative technique.

(Photo: Ko Sasaki for The New York Times)
Much of this phenomenon is due to Kazuo Uyeda, inventor of the "Hard Shake."  As Garvey puts it, Uyeda's trademark technique does wonders to the shaken cocktail:
To see the hard shake in action, I order a gimlet and witness for the first time a precision that will be repeated at all the bars I visit in Tokyo: Uyeda lines up the bottles on the bar, labels facing the customer. With a single, quick twist he opens them and fills the shaker, which he shakes in a rapid-fire serpentine fashion that decelerates to a slow trot and then a standstill. "The gin is broken out," Uyeda says, "then comes back together, smoother, softer." Indeed, the drink contains a profusion of fine ice shards, and the acid from the lime and the alcohol in the gin have both mellowed. It's a bit light for my taste. Not a bad thing, given the night I have ahead of me.
There's multiple videos of this being performed online:

There are skeptics as to whether the "hard shake" actually does much of anything, and even further critics as Tokyo continues to stick with curacao and other technicolour motifs, while those on this side of the Pacific explore more natural flavours.  Either way, it's still a pretty great read, and gives yet another reason to travel to Japan. 

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