A new masterclass at Pantechnicon draws on the supreme cocktail making skills of head mixologist Gento Torigato
Words: Will Moffitt
With its punchy blend of fino sherry, Sakura vermouth, peach bitters and sparkling sake it’s easy to see why The Bamboo cocktail is so popular on Japanese shores. More surprising is the fact that a German hotel manager named Louis Eppinger crafted the drink for visiting dignitaries at Yokohama’s iconic New Grand Hotel.
This revelation comes by way of Pantechnicon’s head mixologist Gento Torigato, who not so much mixes surprising concoctions of fruit, herbs and spirits, but blends them to his will. Hailing from Chiba, 25 miles east of Tokyo, Torigato elevates cocktail making to a form of high art, mixing a range of native Japanese-infused ingredients to create surprising and subtly rendered drinks.
Set in the intimate confines of Pantechnicon’s Sakaya bar, Torigato – who has a degree in philosophy – cheerfully disperses insightful stories and observations about Japanese culture, of which alcohol is an integral part. In keeping with traditional Japanese custom, fresh seasonal ingredients are mashed, blended and whipped to form his creations.
With roots in traditional tea ceremonies from the 16th-century Japanese mixology is a far cry from the sugary sludge that plagues bars across London. Back home, Torigato tells me, it is customary for guests to select cocktails from a bowl of fruit provided on the counter.
“My approach is always ingredients based,” he says. “I need to experience the thing first to figure out what to pair it with. The style of the drink can be decided later.”
Not every cocktail here is a Japanese staple. Torigato enjoys playing with common western drinks and putting his own spin on them. A case in point is his Matcha Old Fashioned. A delicate blend of aged awamori, matcha, honey and gold leaf, it’s an unexpected twist on a vintage American classic. Likewise, Torigato’s Tangerine Sour – made with fresh orange, Nikka Coffey Gin, lime juice, honey and shiso – makes for a refreshing blend.
Throughout the experience Torigato gives me tips to improve my cocktail making skills. Too often, he says, home brewers use poor quality ice that over or under dilutes their drinks. Likewise they focus too much attention on tonic or sugars and not enough on herbs and spices.
“Dry herbs or spices can be really good elements in a cocktail,” he says. “If you’re making cocktails at home choose a neutral spirit like vodka or white rum, put herbs in there and infuse them overnight.”
Torigato finishes the show with a Whisky Blazer fashioned from Nikka Coffey Gin, Fuji apple juice, liqueur, hojicha infused cream, and tonka beans. It’s a sweet way to end an experience that is enriching for the palette and the mind.
To book ‘Gento’s Mixologist Table’, visit pantechnicon.com/experience, 19 Motcomb Street.
Pantechnicon x Roku Terrace
For those seeking a refreshing drink earlier in the week head to this pop up stall at Halkin Arcade. This Japanese street food concept combines seasonal Takoyaki (doughnuts with savoury filling) and kakigori (shaved ice) made into cocktails using Roku Gin. Al fresco drinks will be served Monday to Wednesday from June 30 to September 11.
COCKTAIL HOUR: Jazz up your home bar
Tan leather cocktail shaker
This classic cocktail shaker in smart tan leather from Joanna Wood is ideal for both aficionados and those setting up their first at-home bar.
£89. 57 Elizabeth Street
CHANNEL THE DON
Re-popularised by Mad Men’s suave antihero Don Draper, a perfectly rendered Old Fashioned is a thing of beauty. Here are three of the best in Belgravia
The Blue Bar at The Berkeley
Take in the famous bar’s fashionable surroundings with a Shiso Mine. A plentiful mix of Jack Daniel’s single barrel whisky, plum, red sandalwood, shiso and Martini Bitter should do the trick.
The Library Bar at The Lanesborough
Based on the New Orleans classic of the same name – itself a twist on the Old Fashioned – the ‘Irish Vieux Carré’ comes with a punchy 10 year old single malt, Hennessy and coffee cherry vermouth.
Roof Garden at Pantechnicon
Served in the bright and breezy roof garden at Pantechnicon with its ever reaching views over London – and selected on account of its rich Japanese heritage – this blend of 12 year old Yamasaki whisky, Yonaguni island sugar and peach bitters is something to behold.