Archive for the ‘booze’ Category


Amami Yuki Powers Up for Suntory Chu-hai

April 6, 2013


A cool new commercial from Suntory has just hit the air, featuring Amami Yuki outfitted in alcohol-dispensing powered armor. (the link below has the 15-second version, followed by the 30-second version)

The drink is a canned chu-hai called -196C Strong Zero Dry. Chu-hai is a blend of shochu (a Japanese spirit made from grains or sweet potatoes, fairly similar to vodka), blended with fruit juice or other mixers. The concept behind Suntory’s -196C, which has been on the market for several years now, is that the fruit are flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen, then pulverized and blended into the drink mix. It tastes pretty good, but honestly isn’t any different from any of the other brands of chu-hai available. Later variations included -196 Strong, which had  a higher alcohol content (8%, compared to the normal version’s 5%), and -196C Strong Zero, which had the same alcohol content but less sugar. The newest version, Strong Zero Dry, doesn’t have any fruit flavoring, and so is slightly more bitter than the other variations. I’ve tried it, and it’s not too bad. I’d certainly drink more if I knew I’d be served by models in flying power armor suits.


Japan’s Manabu Otake Crowned 2011 World Class Champion Bartender

July 15, 2011

Last month, I wrote about the Japan finals of Diageo’s World Class Bartending competition. Ten of the country’s top bartenders went head-to-head in a series of challenges that tested their knowledge, artistic creativity, culinary skill and physical reflexes in creating both original and classic drinks. In the end, The Cerulean Hotel’s Manabu Otake stood as Japan’s champion cocktail crafter.

Today in Delhi, India, he was crowned as the 2011 World Champion, beating out 31 of the world’s top bartenders from around the world.

Manabu Otake celebrates his victory at the 2011 World Class Finals

The champion poses with the judges

Photos via Luxury Insider

Above: Original cocktails from the Japan Finals. Champion Otake creates his Blanche Niege, runner-up Hideki Yoshida (also at the Cerulean Hotel) creates his Botanicals Perfection, and 2nd runner-up Tsuyoshi Miyazaki from the Imperial Hotel mixes his Silky Ciroc.

By winning the Japan Finals, Otake advanced to the World Finals held this week in New Delhi, India. As one of a field of 32 bartenders from as many countries, Otake once again had to prove his skill in front of a team of judges that included bartending experts Dale DeGroff, Hidetsugu Ueno, Gary Regan and Salvatore Calabrese.

Sweden’s Boudy Ghostine prepares a spice-based cocktail for Salvatore Calabrese.

The Finals consisted of six rounds of competition: The Spice Market Challenge, in which the contestants had one hour to pick out ingredients at a local market and craft a cocktail to highlight the regional flavor; Asian Food Pairing, in which they were giving a selection of distinctly-flavored dishes to complement; Cocktails Against the Clock, a speed round testing their ability to perform under pressure; and the Classic and Vintage Drinks with a Twist, Cocktail Theatre and the Stars, and Gentlemen’s Drinks and Fancy Tipples tests, which all required contestants to go beyond the basics in impressing the crowds with their knowledge, creativity and flair.

2011 Champion Manabu Otake mixes a celebratory cocktail

Photo via Luxury Insider

Brazil’s Talita Simoes completes the speed round for Dale DeGroff

Side note: Over the past decade, consumption of high-end spirits in India has skyrocketed. Alcohol sales have seen 20% annual growth over the past five years, with a projected market value of US$40 billion by 2014, making it one of the world’s biggest markets. As the world’s largest producer of spirits, these facts likely influenced Diageo’s decision to hold the world championships here.


World Class Japan: The Search for Japan’s Top Bartender

June 21, 2011

[July 15 2011 Update: Manabu Otake has won the World Championship]

Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, recently held the Japan round of their World Class 2011 bartending competition. Considered bartending’s equivalent of the Oscars, World Class recognizes bartenders who bring the art of cocktail-making to a higher level. Contestants are judged on their ability to craft new flavors, revitalize classics, and create food&drink pairings while still fulfilling their age-old role as “psychologist, sociologist, businessman and gracious host all rolled into one.” For this year, the competitions were centered around six of the premium brands Diageo has released in Japan: Ciroc vodka, Tanqueray No. 10 gin, Talisker and Singleton of Glen Ord single malt whiskies, Don Julio tequila, and Ron Zacapa rum.

The finalists at World Class 2011 Japan

via Foodrink News

Held at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Odaiba in Tokyo Harbor, the competition consisted of four stages. First was the Market Challenge, in which the competitors were sent one-by-one to the nearby Wholesalers Market, where they had a limited time to choose and purchase ingredients, which they then had to use to create original cocktails. For the Food Pairing Challenge, competitors were given a selection of fine hors-d’oeuvres from which to choose two, and then had to create a cocktail for each to complement them. In the Ritual Challenge, the competitors were graded on their overall style and knowledge of the finer points of the bartending art. Finally, the Speed and Taste Challenge tested the competitors’ ability to produce Diageo’s twists on six classic cocktails (Singleton and soda, Tanqueray Cosmopolitan, Ron Zacapa Old Fashioned, Tanqueray Negroni, Don Julio Margarita, and a Ciroc Caipiroska) in under 6 minutes, all the while doing so stylishly and, above all, with superb-tasting results.

At the end of it all, Manabu Otake, bartender at the Cerulean Hotel in Shibuya, was judged best of the best, receiving exceptionally high marks in the Speed and Taste Challenge, and for his pear and vodka “Blanche-Neige” original cocktail. This was Otake’s third time in the Japan finals, and his first ever win.

2010 winner Takumi Watanabe (left) congratulates this year's winner Manabu Otake (right)

via Foodrink News

Otake will advance to the Global Finals, which will be held next month in Delhi, India.


Asahi’s New Colder-Than-Ice-Cold Beer

June 4, 2011

Earlier this week, one of my co-workers came by with a flier for a new spot that had just opened up in Ginza: Asahi’s Extra Cold Bar. The concept is that they serve beer (Asahi Super Dry only) chilled to -2℃ and… well, that’s about it, really. The selling point is that since Tokyo gets ridiculously hot during the summer, a super-chilled beer should be just the thing.

So on Friday a few of us decided to give it a try and headed on down to Chuo-dori. We arrived to find the bar packed and a 30-minute line of people waiting to get in. Not having anything better to do, we decided to wait it out, and soon enough we were inside and enjoying our sub-freezing beer.

So what does it taste like? Nothing.

Chill something down that far and the taste buds simply don’t react to it. It had the same smell and after-taste as regular Asahi Super Dry, but during the actual drinking there was no flavor at all. Also, while the glass was extremely cold, the beer itself didn’t feel all that much colder than a regular chilled draft beer. Still, after a day at the office enduring 38 ° August weather because the air conditioning has been shut down as part of this year’s energy-saving measures (what with four reactors going tits-up) , I could see the appeal. Still, there wasn’t nearly enough space for all the people who wanted to come in, and the only reason we were willing to stand outside and wait for half an hour is because the weather last night was so mild. Had it actually been the kind of day that would make one want a beer so cold it shuts down your tongue, we would have taken one look at the massive line snaking around the corner and headed for the nearest pub with climate control and room-temperature English ale.

On the other hand, the staff are very friendly and the food is excellent. The background music is low enough that you can have conversations with the people at your table without raising your voice. As an added attraction, they offer a free (well, for the cost of a beer) bartending mini-course where one of their bartenders shows you how to do a proper pour, after which you receive a card certifying you as a Draft Meister.

All in all, it wasn’t bad but I don’t think I’ll bother heading back. There are already plenty of bars closer to my office and my home that serve beer cold enough to meet my needs, all without having to stand in line. If you’re in the neighborhood you might want to check it out, but last order is at 10:30 so don’t expect to get in if it’s the third stop on your pub crawl. Beers are 550 yen for a half-pint (quite expensive for an Asahi Super Dry), snacks are 250-450. The Extra Cold Bar will only be open until August 31.