Modern Classics

Dispatches from the world's best bars.

When I headed to Osaka a few months ago, my friend Nick Coldicott, who lives in Tokyo, urged me to visit what he contends is the best bourbon bar in the world: Rogin’s Tavern. Knowing Nick’s command of the spirits universe, I take a commuter train out to Moriguchi, an obscure little town about half an hour from the center of Osaka. When I emerge from the station I can see a neon light spelling “Rogin’s” in English. Inside it is dim, with a long wooden bar backed by hundreds of bottles. American jazz comes from an ancient-looking jukebox in the rear.

Nearly every bottle is bourbon, though there is a smattering of rye and sour mash. I can see bottles from the 1800s next to obscure export bottlings of Jim Beam next to standard-issue Jack Daniel’s. Seiichiro Tatsumi, an older man dressed elegantly in bartender’s attire, emerges from the shadows and says hello in English. I tell him I am a friend of Nick’s, and he reaches for a bottle nestled behind the register. “You want to try a 1904?” he asks.

He tenderly unscrews the top and pours a shot for me and another for himself. I take a sip. It is a brand I’ve never heard of, once made, Tatsumi says, especially for a hotel in Kentucky. It is highly alcoholic but silky smooth. Unlike wine or vintage port, bourbon is not supposed to change much in the bottle over time. And so I think of this as a chance to taste the past and experience, almost exactly, what drinkers were sipping a hundred years ago.

“I tasted my first bourbon in the basement bar of the Rihga Royal Hotel, a famous old place in Osaka,” Tatsumi says. “Then I spent years reading everything I could about bourbon at the American cultural center. I sent letters to Kentucky and Tennessee trying to set up visits to the distilleries. I even asked for help at the American consulate. And then I finally got to visit in 1984. I fell in love with America then. I’ve been back a hundred times since. I now own a house in Lexington, and I’ve even been named a colonel in Kentucky.”

I ask him how he found all these old bottles of bourbon. “I drive across America, only on the back roads and especially at night, when you can see the lit-up liquor-store signs in the distance,” he says. “I stop at every place I pass, and I don’t just look on the shelves: I ask the clerk to comb the cellar and check the storeroom for anything old. I can’t tell you how many cases of ancient bottles I’ve found that way. I’ll try any bourbon once, and if I like it I buy more.”

How Japan Copied American Culture and Made it Better | Travel | Smithsonian

Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye with a Carton Boat Beer back at the Richardson in Brooklyn earlier today. Probably my favorite beer/whiskey combination ever.

Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye with a Carton Boat Beer back at the Richardson in Brooklyn earlier today. Probably my favorite beer/whiskey combination ever.

Q: A source told me about your use of a sous vide machine, which cooks foods in airtight bags in a water bath, to infuse spirits. What’s the difference between infusing spirits using sous vide as opposed to old-school ways of infusing alcohol with fruit by jarring it and putting it on the shelf?

A: When you do that, you’re going to risk oxidization and you’re going to get a lot of evaporation, which is going to change the alcohol level. [Alcoholic Beverage Control] kind of jumped all over that a while back and took that out, and you couldn’t do that anymore because you’re taking a product and you’re putting stuff in and there’s no control. When you do a sous vide method, you have control because you vacuum seal it because no alcohol is going to get out, no oxygen is going to be exposed to it. It’s faster, it’s more consistent and the flavors are more concentrated. We’re doing bourbon infused with puerh tea. Meyer lemon in vodka. My favorite is the Curious George with dill, celery bitters infused into the whiskey.

Alta CA in SF is experimenting with your drinking experience | Food & Drink | San Francisco | San Francisco Examiner

(Source: kitschyliving, via fuckyeahtiki)

Style and Substance: 7 Outstanding Cocktail Menus That Nail Their Designs -- Grub Street New York

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Tiki barware at Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago (via Jim Meehan)

Tiki barware at Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago (via Jim Meehan)

Like a chain, a cocktail is as strong as its weakest link. Nothing is too good to mix with in my opinion.

Jim Meehan’s Tips for Developing New Cocktails | Serious Eats: Drinks

Regan Report 2014

An overview of 2013’s biggest cocktail trends. Unsurprisingly, Scotch and Amaro were big.

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"The concept for the digestifs at Piora first came about because our head bartender, Shinya Yamao, had this idea to create a dessert cocktail featuring banana and rum but wanted to do it without any added sugar or fruit juice," explains Simon Kim, owner and general manager of Piora in New York’s West Village.

(via Making Infused Digestifs With a Japanese Coffee Dripper at Piora, NYC | Serious Eats: Drinks)

"The concept for the digestifs at Piora first came about because our head bartender, Shinya Yamao, had this idea to create a dessert cocktail featuring banana and rum but wanted to do it without any added sugar or fruit juice," explains Simon Kim, owner and general manager of Piora in New York’s West Village.

(via Making Infused Digestifs With a Japanese Coffee Dripper at Piora, NYC | Serious Eats: Drinks)