Tomoaki Inaba: Washu (Taipei)

Tomoaki Inaba is the owner of Washu in Taipei. He makes us two cocktails, one with Gin and Triple Sec and the second with Shochu and Edamame Paste.

Tomoaki introduce yourself
My name is Tomoaki Inaba. I was a student in engineering and one of my friends was working in a bar part-time in Tokyo. I could see when he was working girls loved him, so I decided to do the same and started with classic cocktails. It was during this time I also discovered scotch whisky, so I decided to go to the UK to learn more about this product. I found a job at the Ardbeg distillery where I learnt to make whisky. While I was there the staff asked me what was our national spirit. My natural response was Sake and Shochu and when I realised I knew nothing about them I felt ashamed. So I came back to Japan to study these ingredients, whilst continuing to learn more about whisky. After seven years, I went back to London to work as a sake sommelier in Zuma and bartender in Roka, where I learnt to make a lot of infusions. After four years, I wanted to open my venue in Tokyo, but due to the economy, I decided to move to Taipei, as my wife is Taiwanese. After one year I was able to open my place in Taipei, but I wanted to be different so I only use Japanese products and techniques. My menu is inspired by sushi restaurants, I name the flavour you’re going to taste, and only add a few ingredients. I think there are too many ingredients in a lot of drinks at the moment and you end up not recognising the main flavour.
I just opened my new bar (right beside Washu) Washu +1, it’s a cocktail tasting menu bar. When I opened Washu I still didn’t understand how people could start with a heavy creamy drink, then move onto a martini. It should be the opposite but you can’t say that to them, it’s too late. So with Washu+1, we control the experience. You enter into a very dark space, the music/sounds are chosen to completely separate our guest’s mind from reality, similar to a spa, so they can relax and focus on their drinks. Once they have chosen a card (flavour or terrain-based) we choose the order the drinks are served, the type of drink, the temperature and the dilution.

The classic you want to show us
White Lady
30ml of Tanqueray Gin
20ml of Cointreau
10ml of Lemon Juice
1 Barspoon of Simple Syrup

The bar you dream of
My dream bar would be a small Omakase bar for a maximum of six people who can challenge me on drinks. You spend the time needed with each one to understand what they want. It would a destination in the mountain far from the city, so people are expecting more. Of course, there would be food as well, as it’s a destination.

What do you do in your time off
I play football with my son who is eight years old and sport with my daughter.

The spirit you like the most
For me it’s all about Japan, so Shochu. It’s the spirit which matches best with my Japanese drinks concept.

What makes a good cocktail
Firstly not too many ingredients in the drink. But for Japanese, the cocktail is only 30% of the experience. 70% is about the bartender meeting the customer’s needs, the interaction and service. Anyone can make a drink, but when I train my staff it’s not just about the drink, but hospitality.

What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
It would be yuzu because it’s one of the best citrus fruits and it’s flexible. Yuzu can be in a martini, a desert, it can be creamy, savoury or bitter. I could create a yuzu bar, as it uses are endless.

The signature cocktail you want to show us
40ml of Shochu
60g of Edamame Paste
30ml of Jasmine Tea Cold Brew
2 Tea Spoons of Egg White Powder
Salt Rim

Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
You should go to visit the one and only Kayama San at Ben Fiddich in Tokyo.

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