The Great Japanese Bartenders
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Attention, not money, or even time, is the most precious thing we have. And it’s so difficult in today’s world, especially in a bar environment, to be completely in the moment.
When I watch excellent bartenders, they seem to disappear into what they’re doing. It’s hard to tell when the technique stops, and the emotion, the consideration of the customer, the care and attentiveness the suffuses each action starts. And Japanese bartenders are the best I have ever seen. It might be because of the Zen aesthetic that inspires them. The idea that, no matter what our calling on this earth, we can follow it to its source, and that source is our own heart, our own innermost expression of the universe, and that expression will be revealed in our every action.
If there’s a practice that has had the most influence on Japanese bartending it must be the tea ceremony. The slow, hypnotic movements. The reverence that is shown for cleaning the utensils is the same care that is shown the guest when the tea is served. Through it all, there is this sense that something spiritual, something wordless, is being expressed.
You can watch a full ceremony here:
Now, please consider the following video of Takyuki Yoshida’s performance of a Gimlet
What strikes me about this is how much more similar it is to the tea ceremony than it is to the average working bartender. Note both the classical precision of his technique and also, how emotional the whole experience feels. When the utmost care is applied toward something, when it is made with love, it resonates.