Mitchito Kaneko brought his carefully crafted and award-winning cocktails to Hong Kong palates in a unique guest bartending session at Zuma.
The Vin Zacapa
The World Class Global Bartender of the Year 2015 came to the 852 for a two-night takeover of Zuma's bar and lounge to delight diners with a seven-course cocktail pairing menu. Three of his creations featured spirits from the Diageo World Class collection: Ron Zacapa, Don Julio Reposado and Tanqueray No. TEN gin. The Vin Zacapa is made with cranberry, raspberry vinegar and angostura bitters and is a rich and full-bodied expression of Ron Zacapa 23. It is bright on the palate with notes of red fruits and chocolate, before a warming finish reminiscent of a northern Rhone red wine. It was paired with a signature Zuma dish: seared Wagyu with daikon, cucumber, black truffle and ponzu.
The Japanese Sensory explores a balance between sweet and sour. The pale yellow cocktail is made with atsukan syrup (sake and sugar) and fresh lemon juice that is strained into a brandy glass dusted with sesame salt and hojicha powder (Japanese roasted tea). This subtle expression of Japanese flavours amplifies the herbaceous characteristic of Tanqueray No. TEN gin. Complementing the freshness of this drink, it was paired with seared salmon served with lime shiso sauce. The third cocktail on the pairing menu was the El Julio 75, a delightful take on Don Julio Reposado made with champagne, grapefruit peel, agave syrup and seawater. Reflecting the complexities of this cocktail, it was served with crispy fried squid, green chilli and lime.
Over 13 years ago, Michito was inspired to quit his job as a construction worker to become a bartender after tasting cocktails in the most famous bar in his home region of Nara, Japan. Three years ago, he opened his own bar, Lamp Bar.
We spoke with Mitchito during his preparations for the Zuma meal pairing:
What do you hope to achieve during your time guest bartending at Zuma?
Because Zuma is a Japanese restaurant, I feel I need to show my Japanese side. I want to show the character of the Japanese bartender in my cocktails. I think Japanese bartenders have a very sensitive way of feeling the taste and flavours. So this time I recreated the flavours of wine without using wine: the Vin Zacapa. It's made up of a lot of different things.
What did winning the 2015 Diageo World Class mean for you?
It’s the biggest competition I’ve ever entered, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been at a global level competition, so it was a big challenge and something knew for me.
What did you get out of the competition?
My lifestyle has changed completely. My bar is located in the countryside, and after I won the World Class, within one year, I had traveled to 14 cities meeting media and gaining lots of attention, so it’s really good fun.
How is the competition different to ones you have entered previously?
It’s very different from competitions in Japan; with the World Class, you have to be very creative, so I tried many different new techniques to prepare. In Japan, it's only judged on the technical.
Which style of competition do you prefer?
I prefer creative, but also if you don’t have the basic authentic and traditional skills and you just do the creative, it doesn’t mean much. So I feels it is very important to have the classical skills.
What trends are you seeing in cocktails at the moment?
For my own trends, I like using very simple, daily ingredients, nothing exotic or strange, just ordinary ingredients but mixing them up into something very unique. I always want to create something unique from ordinary ingredients.
What inspires you?
It varies. If I meet someone from a whisky distillery or hear a story from a manager there, I get inspired by the history behind it or if I see a wonderful work of art, I get inspiration as well. I get it from everywhere.
Are you particularly passionate about any particular ingredients?
I feel using egg white, the way I use it, has brought me up a level. So I really like making egg white cocktails.
What is your favourite spirit to work with?
Scotch whisky. I am a collector, and I have maybe 1,000 different bottles.
Does the shape and size of ice play a big role in your cocktails?
It’s very important and depends on the cocktail. In a logical way, I have to change the shape; it’s not just for presentation. For example, if you use sparkling wine in a cocktail, the bubbles will disappear quickly if the surface is open, so I make the surface bigger with the ice to shield the surface and keep the bubbles. These are the kinds of things I always have to think about. If I want to keep the temperature of a cocktail lower, I create lots of smaller ice cubes.
And, finally, when you are a customer at a bar, what do you order?
Probably a gin and tonic.