King of Mixology with Ryu Okada

16 Nov 2015
2 min read
FOUR speaks to sake cocktail award-winner, Ryu Okada, about being a professional bartender, creative sake mixologist and founder of Kampai Cocktails…

This November Ryu will be taking part in thefirst everSake Cocktail Awards 2015taking place at the Hyper Japan Christmas edition. The festival is a tribute to all things Japanese in the heart of London allowingJapanophiles to experience traditional and popularJapaneseculture through food, drink, music, art, and much more.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Japan and lived in Sydney for 3 years too.

What did you aspire to be when you grew up?

I never aspired to anything until I started working behind the bar, then I saw an opportunity to progress in a field.

How did you find your way into the world of mixology?

When I was 21 I came to London and I went to a bar in Covent Garden. When I saw all the bottles lined up beautifully behind the bar and a barman grabbing several bottles and mixing them to make one drink, I felt there was something magical about it – I knew straight away that is something I wanted to do!

Can you tell us a bit about what makes sake so unique as a choice for cocktails or food pairing?

Sake and food always goes together in Japan, so there is nothing unique about pairing the two, however Sake is very special its own way. Its refined and sophisticated flavour can be a great foundation to create an original flavour combined with various fruits, spices and herbs.

Sake pairings and cocktails are becoming increasingly more popular, but why do you think it has taken so long for this to happen?

Price is definitely one reason. Sake is not expensive, but in contrast you can get a decent bottle of wine for£7.00 or less and it seems a bit of risk to spendover £10.00 for something you don’t really know about.

Another reason is the lack of information and its availability. The recognition of Sake is getting higher every year but it is still a minority, if you were to venture into Shoreditch or the West End, there aren’t many bars dedicated entirely to Sake.

Events such as HYPER JAPAN Sake Cocktail Awards are crucial for the awareness of Sake in the UK, it provides the opportunity for people that are unaware of sake to try it for the first time.

You are appearing at this year’s Hyper Japan Christmas market, what do you have for visitors?

It will not be a classic Christmas flavour such as orange and cinnamon but it will be something original! I’m really looking forward to people coming to taste my creations at HYPER JAPAN as it’s always such a great atmosphere there.

Can you give us FOUR of your top Sake recommendations?

The one I have always liked is Takacho Junmai from Nara, it’s well balanced with a good acidic Sake. I also recommend Nigori Sake (cloudy sake), sparkling Sake and plum wine – which is not always made with Sake – so that you can see a variety of styles.

What other interesting trends/themes are going on in the spirit world?

I guess gin has established itself as a solid trend, mezcal is also in trend too. I tend not to follow fashions.

What are your FOUR indispensable alcohol collection favourites?

I won’t go for the obvious one. I would say lager, gin, Scotch whisky and Japanese whisky.