Last night we were treated to some delightful cocktails. Cork & Screw presents: A guide to Japanese Cocktail bars: Bar K, Osaka, featuring Ryu Fuji, was under way at Cork & Screw Plaza Indonesia, as part of the Union Group’s exciting efforts in bringing top bartenders and mixologists from around the world. Ryu Fuji is a 2016 World Class Japan champion who runs Bar K in Osaka, who is in some ways, a man of tradition. Before creating a cocktail, Fuji-san researches the tradition of the base spirit. Looking at the origin of the spirit, along with its links to the food and cultural tradition of the originating country, so that each ingredient embraces the base spirit in the most familiar way. For me personally, this was quite accurately reflected in the cocktails that he chose to design for this particular event.
Japanese banner featured at front window
Star anise, matcha powder and cinnamon, Fuji-san’s modest arsenal of ingredients
The bar was set up to be similar to his own at Bar K in Osaka
Fuji-san prepared four cocktails for the event, and are presented in an a la carte style, as opposed to cocktail Omakase (tasting flight), which are very common in Japanese cocktail bars. The four cocktails are JPT Smash, Primavera Fizz, Japasour and Night Cap in Osaka. Trying all the cocktails was very exciting. They all embraced the base spirit without allowing it to become overly dominant.
The JPT Smash is a refreshing gimlet style cocktail made with green tea infused gin and sake as its base, which is mixed with yuzu marmalade, fresh lemon juice, served with ice and a lemon peel. The lemon and yuzu marmalade played a pleasant combination of sharp tartness and mellow sour sweetness, which complemented the freshness of the gin and soft sweetness of the sake very well. The green tea infusion adds a touch of bitterness at the end, which made the drink not so sickeningly sweet.
A straightforward and simple cocktail, with distinctly Japanese flavors, this one is a nice appetizer for what’s to come next. From a small conversation we had with Fuji-san, he makes it quite clear that he intends for people to try the cocktails at a certain order (reading from the cocktails board, Fuji-san intends for people to drink from the top to bottom, left to right), as each cocktail heightens in flavors and the magnitude of the ingredients become more intense. Surely, this will please anyone with even a slight problem of OCD.
Fuji-san gracefully garnishes the Primavera Fizz with a piece of star anise as fellow bartenders and waitstaff look curiously.
An interesting cocktail, the Primavera Fizz is an aromatic and cooling, fizz type cocktail which was very true to his ideals. This tequila based drink is mixed with Hibiscus water, lime, and yuzu juice, topped of with a single piece of star anise. I say this is a very interesting cocktail, because it is mainly a play on hibiscus tea, a beverage that is very popular in Mexico and South America. Flavor-wise, it complements the base spirit very well, and it is also contextually relevant to the Mexican native; Tequila. The use of star anise, was a touch of brilliance. The complex aniseed flavor improved the Tequila Blanco, almost giving it the mellowed out feel of a Reposado (rested or slightly aged) Tequila. I did have one issue with the drink, to me the combination of aniseed flavors and soda water is quite a strange experience. I’m curious to see how this cocktail could be improved by ditching the soda.
A Yoichi based cocktail, guilty as charged.
My favorite of the night was undoubtably the Japasour. Fuji-san’s take on the classic whiskey sour, this drink is based on the Yoichi single malt whisky, and garnished with a sprinkle of matcha powder. It is ironic in many ways, that my favorite drink was the whisky-based cocktail, but I find that Fuji-san delivers the balance of this cocktail very well. It is not too fresh, given that lemon juice is a large proportion of this drink, and the subtle qualities and heavy body of the Yoichi is highlighted very well. The matcha powder adds a nice bitterness, unexpectedly bringing out a lot of the smoky flavor from the Yoichi. I also really enjoyed that it was served straight up, not on the rocks, and that Fuji-san decided to go with the egg white. Overall, a thoughtful cocktail, and a memorable one. Definitely the highlight of the night.
Fuji-san carefully finishing the drink with a sprinkle of green tea powder.
Finishing Nightcap in Osaka with cinnamon powder
As I mentioned before, the menu is presented almost as if it was a vertical, so naturally the course ends with dessert. A name very fitting for the supposed last drink of the event, the Nightcap in Osaka is more like a dessert than a drink. The consistency is thick and creamy. This drink is based on the Nikka Coffey Grain whisky, which is mixed with cacao liqueur and chilled, and added with Peychaud’s bitters, red bean paste, and topped off with cinnamon powder. Again, Fuji-san does a great job highlighting the Nikka Coffey Grain, the sweet vanilla tone really comes out in this drink. The cocktail is like eating a red bean parfait that is spiked with whisky. As a sweet tooth, I enjoy it very much. However, it is somewhat too sweet, and I do wish that it had been balanced out with something fruity or bitter.
Nikka Coffey Grain and Cacao Liqueur is the base of the drink
All in all, it was a very pleasant evening. Cork & Screw manages to make the ambience and the setting very suitable for the appearance of a well regarded bartender by letting in just the right amount of his charm and personality. Fuji-san was all smiles and was very eager to make his drinks. Thank you to Cork & Screw for inviting Fuji-san and hosting this event. We look forward to many more.
If you ever find yourself in Osaka, do drop by and say hello to Ryu Fuji at Bar K.
1 Chome-3-3 Sonezakishinchi, Kita Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-0002, Japan. Tel:+81 6-6343-1167
Photos by Bryan Sudjati and myself.