November 16, 2010

From Negative to Positive, Diageo World Class

Early July, TV was on, but I did not listen to it.  Suddenly, the words, a  local bartender in Nara,  caught my ears. I started to watch TV.  It was the short documentary on the bartender contest to choose No.1 bartender in Japan. The winner would be able to participate the international bartender contest, Diageo World Class held in July in Athens, Greece. Diageo World Class for bartenders  is equivalent  to World Cup for soccer players.

First, fifteen bartenders were selected from all over Japan  and they were narrowed down to five. One of them was the local bartender in Nara, Mr. Watanabe and the other four were the bartenders working for the first-class hotels in Tokyo. (image taken from google)


Mr. Watanabe was very effective, especially  in the skill test, called  Card Draw Challenge. Each of them drew one card  with a different  theme, and each one had to make the most suitable cocktail following the theme . The given theme to Mr. Watanabe was to help a couple in their twenties. As it was their first date, their conversation was awkward. Mr. Watanabe chose gin based cocktail which was compounded gin with fresh peach juice, black tea and added a little bit  mint to cheer up the young couple. His attitude was cool  and the color of the cocktail was supreme. He became the winner.
I applauded most heartily.                                               (image taken from google)

But I was resented since the narrator in the program always called Mr.Watanbabe, the local bartender in Nara. The expression "Local" for a bartender sounded me  negative since "Local" implies "Rural" in Japanese , so I felt  it was  impolite to Mr. Watanabe.

Soon I tapped and looked in my compute. His bar is a member's bar-THE SAILING BAR in Sakurai City, Nara.  In the menu of his bar, there is no names of cocktails. Because  he makes the cocktail which fits his guests the best,  judging their feelings or conditions from conversation.

In Asahi Newspaper of November 14th,  I found the least expected answer from Mr. Watanabe.  It is his stance as a local bartender or his thinking of what is  "Local-Rural".
In the newspaper, he says, the rich nature in the rural town  has been heightening and  inspiring  his sensitivity and palate. Also, he  has cherished this saying " The local is the international."  given by his customers. He has beautifully changed the negative to the positive.

 That's why he was selected as the best bartender in Japan, excelling the other first-class bartenders.

The paper also says, twenty four of the most talented and inspirational bartenders were chosen to participate in Diageo World Class which had 9000 entries from the world. He was the ninth in twenty four bartenders representing twenty  four countries.

I want to applaud most heartily again.


  1. His way how to choose and serve cocktail sounds marvellous.
    I have few chance to go to bar, though I would like to know what sort of cocktail he will choose when I was his customer.

  2. haricot,

    Yes, I also want to know what type of cocktail he will make for me. If we go to his bar many times, he will serve different types of cocktails as we are in the different mood, condition, feeling and so on day by day.

    His work is miraculous, isn't it!

  3. This bartender is artist in a way,isn't he? He feels customers and express his inspiration by cocktail.By the way I can't drink,in this case what cocktail he will create?

  4. sarari,

    Wow, it must be the most difficult task to him!
    I'm sure he will show you an amazing creation as cocktail is an eloquent communication tool for him.

  5. Very interesting article. (And I like the new site design.)

    Let me offer a non-Japanese point of view: I don't WANT a bartender to "guess my feelings". This just creeps me out! I want a bartender to give me what I ask for. Is that strange?

  6. I almost agree with Marc. I have likes and dislikes: I like citrus-based cocktail as light as possible. When he makes a cocktail just suitable for me according to my request, that would be nice of course. Or should I be more adventuresome about a new cocktail believing him?

    Marc's opinion is interesting. Come to think of it, there are many "omakase" (up to the cook) menu in Japan. "My choice" would be Western culture.

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  8. Marc,

    Thank you for your interesting comment.

    It is not strange at all. I think some Japanese also have the similar opinion to yours while some non-Japanese have the similar opinion to mine. As they say, "Every one to his or her taste." That's why there are diversities of bars, restaurants, cafes and more.

    His bar is a members'bar. For the members, he is the exactly right bartender. He sounds me the right bartender.

    There must be a right bartender in a right bar to each one.

  9. Stardust,

    Thank you for your comment.

    >I like citrus-based cocktail as light as possible.
    To judge how light depends on a bartender's sensitivity or inspiration. I'm courious about what light citrus-based cocktrail he makes for you according to your request. And it is a great fan to be more adventuresome about many things.

    In a restaurant or bar, sometimes customers order dishes saying "Mitukurotte-Choose suitable dishes for us". Don't you think "MItukurou" is extremely difficult?

    Cocktail is from western culture but what he does is closely related to Japanese thing "Mitukurou".

    Thanks all of you. I'll contunue to think about this topic, sipping Sake.


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