Mitsuhiro Nakamura is the head bartender at The Peninsula, in Tokyo. He makes two cocktails for us, one with Japanese Rum and Snake Liqueur and the second with Japanese Whisky and Matcha Tea.
Mitsuhiro introduce yourself
My name is Mitsuhiro Nakamura and I was originally a wedding planner. After that job I worked as a waiter in the Peninsula restaurant, then moved to the bar. I saw that the bartenders were very much appreciated, so I wanted to try that. Then I learnt how to make a cocktail, the necessary speed to make a drink for a customer and all the basic skills, thanks to my boss who had won World Class for Japan. In 2014 I won the Chivas Masters for Japan, then the Bombay Sapphire competition the following year. In 2017 I went to Tales of the Cocktails to explain Japanese tea ceremonies but it was complicated for me to explain the Japanese culture to people unfamiliar with it. For me, the tea ceremony is an important part of the way I work and my bartending style, because I make cocktails like I would make tea for a tea ceremony… it’s my signature. If I’m making a cup of green tea or a cocktail I have the same mindset.
The classic you want to show us
45ml of Ryoma Japanese Rum
10ml of Snake Liqueur
5ml of Simple Syrup
5ml of Smoked Japanese Tea Bitters
4 dashes of Jerry Thomas Bitters
The bar you dream of
My dream bar would be a small space for 6 to 8 people in Tokyo, with a modern interior created by myself. Because I like to engage with my customers to understand their tastes and make the best drink for them, so I need a smaller space where we can interact. It’s like Ichigo Ichie, which means: each moment only once. The origins of the phrase are rooted in the tea ceremony where it emphasises the duty on the part of the host to strive to give their entirety to ensure the greatest experience possible, as there is no guarantee they will have the chance to entertain the guest under the same circumstances ever again. Of course, I’d want comfortable chairs, so customers would feel at ease, like the ones in Little Red Door, they are the best chairs ever. I love metal but you can’t play that kind of music in a bar, so I would feature jazz music.
What do you do in your time off
I go to a tea school where I am a student, we sit on mats on the floor and the atmosphere makes my mind relax. It’s like a reset, then I can focus again and I feel comfortable.
The spirit you like the most
There is no reason in particular, but I love gin. Most of the spirits in Japan don’t have strong spicy or herbal notes, so gin has been a great surprise for me because it is all about that.
What makes a good cocktail
A cocktail needs to have different levels and evolve as you sip it. Balance is of course a necessity, but the truth is if the customer asks you for a second drink, then you know the first cocktail was a good one.
What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
I love to play with herbs to change the taste of my spirit in the shaker.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
45ml of Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
30ml of Matcha Tea
10ml of Passion Fruit Syrup
5ml of Simple Syrup
5ml of Lemon juice
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
You need to go in Sakata in Japan and visit the Kerun cafe. The owner is 91 years old and is still the head bartender.
Thanks to Mathieu Le Feuvrier from the Peninsula Paris for making this interview possible.