Secrets of a master mixologist, Tokyo’s Ryuichi Saito

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If you find yourself in Tokyo’s hyper fashionable Shibuya neighborhood and in need of a stiff drink, discerning locals will very likely send you to the lounge bar of the Trunk (Hotel), helmed by Ryuichi Saito, considered one of the best mixologists in the world. Ryuichi’s creative concoctions, like “Getting Trunk,” a sublime fusion of Ogasawara rum and Hojicha tea, accented with almonds and delicate spices, or the “Breakfast Whisky Sour,” an homage to an English breakfast made from Dewar’s whisky, Earl Gray, lemon, egg whites, vanilla bitters, and orange, have brought him wide recognition and numerous bartending awards.

On October 18, Singapore will be treated to a taste of Tokyo when Ryuichi takes over The Warehouse Hotel bar, pouring some of his boldest creations for the city’s cocktail enthusiasts. In anticipation of this special collaboration between two Design Hotels, we caught up with Ryuichi to find out more about where he finds inspiration.

Q: Can a cocktail be a form of self-expression?
Yes, I try to express my feelings with the ingredients—not only looks but also the taste, the meaning of the ingredients, etc. It all comes together to create one complete piece.

Q: What motivates you?
Both painful things and fun things become the essence of making creative cocktails. I devote my entire life to bartending.

Q: Do your ideas vary from season to season?
There are four seasons in Japan, and the mood changes for each season. In spring there is the cherry blossoming; in summer, the sandy beaches shine white. Then there’s the sparkling sea in fall and stepping on colorful autumn leaves. In winter the morning mist of city. There are many things to be inspired by.

Q: At Trunk, one of the guiding principles is “Local First.” Was it a challenge to create cocktails with this in mind?
The theme “local” is very wide and it was a bit difficult to know where to focus. For example, things like Japanese tea and sushi are local to Japan, but I didn’t feel like they would make very unique cocktails on their own. So, I decided to go even more local and take inspiration from the area around Trunk (Hotel). For example the local Shibuya-made cola, and the shrine at the back of the hotel.

Q: Were there any particular inspirations behind the cocktail, Getting Trunk? How would you describe the taste of it?
We wanted this cocktail to simulate the experience of Trunk (Hotel). The idea was for people to drink it and become intoxicated by Trunk (Hotel) and become a fan. We’re using a local rum made on an island in the Tokyo region. That, along with houjicha (Japanese roasted green tea) represents our themes of “local first” and also culture. For health we added Amontillado Sherry, and then combined a various types of bitters and absinthe for diversity. It is served in the Trunk mug, which is made out of recycled material and represents our theme of environmentalism. It is a sweet and sour long drink that feels Japanese and Western at the same time.

To reserve a spot for The Warehouse Hotel Presents: A Night with Ryuichi Saito, please call 6828-0007 or send an email to po@thewarehousehotel.com. You can view the menu here. Walk-ins are welcome with limited table reservations available.

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018