Japanese bartending blows my mind. It’s so artful that, as with oil painting, the equipment is paramount. Even the simplest drinks are painstakingly prepared. I start the way I learned from the Japanese masters: with the ice. Hand carving a perfect sphere with a trident ice pick (A), I knock off edges with the head and chisel with a single prong. I measure spirits with a sleek, two-ounce Japanese-style jigger (B); its precut lines allow me to measure half-ounce to two-ounce pours and everything in between. For smooth, efficient stirring, my Japanese bar spoon‘s (C) tight-coiled stem spins easily between my fingers. For shaken cocktails, I reach for weighted, leak-proof Koriko mixing tins (D), then pour the contents through a deep basket strainer (E)—its high sides can handle two drinks at once. But my favorite tool is the cut-crystal Yarai mixing glass (F), sturdy enough to keep in the freezer and so pretty that it catches customers’ eyes. I like to pass those customers their drinks as a Japanese bartender would, with both hands; it’s a gesture of appreciation—a reminder of who these exquisite tools are really made for.
Brian Means is bar manager at the Fifth Floor Restaurant in San Francisco.