Hard shake

Shaken by a Master – Introducing the Japanese Hard Shake

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Welcome to Tender Bar

Meet Kazuo Uyeda, Japans most famous bartender, the owner of Tender Bar, and the inventor of the Hard Shake technique – an extreme way of shaking to maximize aeration of the contents of the shaker.

We arrive at Tender Bar on a Monday evening. Initially, we had some trouble finding the place. This is not a bar at street-level with a fancy neon sign. After some help from one of the locals, we found ourself riding a tiny elevator to the fifth floor.

The name maybe a little strange, but this place is no joke. Located in Ginza, Tokyo’s famous upmarket shopping and dining district, this bar host Japans most famous bartender. Kazuo Uyeda is the inventor of the Hard Shake technique, an extreme way of shaking to maximize aeration of the contents of the shaker.

Inside we were met by a polite young man who took our coats and led the way to the bar. The place was quiet, with only about 7-8 other guests.

The bar menu has mostly classic drinks. I wanted to try a Dry Martini. I’m picky on this, and I usually specify that I want my Martini really dry. (My preference is 1 part vermouth and 6 parts gin)

Kazuo Uyeda
Kazuo Uyeda at Tender bar, Tokyo

We had the pleasure of being served by Kazuo Uyeda himself.
This is a transcript of me ordering my first cocktail:

Me: “Can you please make me an extra dry Martini?”
KU: “No!”
– silence –
Me: “OK. Then please make me a Dry Martini”
KU: “Very well”

Then he put on a show that I have not seen the likes of anywhere. He presented all the ingredients and poured the required amounts into the cocktail shaker without measuring them. Then he shook the shaker with the concentration of a surgeon.

After my first sip, I uttered only one word: “Perfection!”
What made this Dry Martini so special was the perfect balance between the ingredients. It was just perfect.

Mr. Uyeda’s knowledge of the English language is rather limited. With the help of the Japanese guests next to us, we manage to have a conversation. When Mr. Uyeda heard that we come all the way from Norway to, among other things visit his bar, he lights up. We all end up having a discussion about the differences between European and Japanese bartending.

By the time Mr. Uyeda serves our second round of drinks the conversation with the guests sitting next to us has turned to Norway as a vacationing spot. The conversation gets occasionally loud, with a lot of laughter, until Mr. Uyeda, in a very discreet way, urges us to keep our voices down.

Later, before leaving, we buy a copy of Mr. Uyeda book (see below) and exchange business cards. All in all a very pleasant evening.

 

What is Hard Shake?

In order to understand the hard shake technique, you have to understand Japanese culture. Mr. Uyeda is not someone who will try all things new, instead, he has used decades to hone the classic cocktails into perfection, starting in 1966.

What sets Japanese bartending apart for the western traditions is the intense focus on perfecting basic skills. They take a classic recipe and will continue to tweak that until it is perfect in every sense. Starting with slow-freezing the ice from the bottom-up, to get rid of the tiny air bubbles. This makes a harder and more solid ice cube that will take a lot more beating in the shaker before breaking in pieces and thus diluting the drink. The ice cubes are shaped into perfectly round spheres, again to decrease chipping of the ice during shaking.

If you study Uyeda’s movements during shaking you will see that he swings the shaker gently from side to side. This is done to swirl the liquids inside the shaker for maximum aeration and at the same time reduce the speed of the ice hitting the bottom or top of the shaker.

Below you can see Kazuo Uyeda in action in Tender Bar.

 

Cocktail Techniques by Kazuo Uyeda

Below is a picture of my signed copy of Uyeda’s book. Cocktail Techniques by Kazuo Uyeda

The first English language edition of a seminal work by internationally renown bartender Kazuo Uyeda is a major publishing event illuminating what has been, until now, the elusive world of Japanese bartending.
– Amazon.com

(Click on the pictures to see the Amazon page for this book.)

Cocktail Techniques
Cocktail Techniques by Kazuo Uyeda (Photo: Bjørn Christian Finbråten)

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