As many of you know, the origin story of my shochu obsession began on a Tuesday night at Izakaya Ten (now Juban) back in 2008. As a result, “Shochu Tuesday” has always had a special place in my heart and for the past 2 1/2 years I’ve been a guest-bartender-in-residence at SakaMai on the Lower East Side. As for December 15, 2015 that tenure ended – and with a bang. We had more than 40 guests for the farewell Shochu Tuesday at SakaMai.
Many thanks to SakaMai owners Natalie Graham and Tanner Fahl for the opportunity; to Chef Akiyama Takinori for the always amazing food that kept people coming back for more; to managers Yasuyuki Suzuki, Haruka Uemura, and Jamie Graves for their support; and to the entire SakaMai service staff for their always great hospitality to our guests. Also thanks to my guest-guest bartenders Seikai Ishizuka, Jesse Falowitz (of Mizu Shochu), Bill Gunther, and the Sake Ninja, Chris Johnson for covering for me when I was out of town. I made many great friends through the experience as well as learning just how difficult it would be to run a restaurant or bar (killed that dream pretty quickly).
One particularly memorable night was the US book release party for Christopher Pellegrini’s The Shochu Handbook. For more from Christopher on shochu, check out shochu.pro and Japan Booze Blind from JapanEats.TV. Chris came all the way from Tokyo for the happy hour, drawing the biggest crowd Shochu Tuesday ever had.
Another favorite night of mine was when Noriyuki Yamashita, owner-operator of Glocal Bar Imo Vibes in Kumamoto, Japan decided to take over the bar for the night. I’ll be returning the favor in February when I visit his bar for the first time.
When these happy hours began we’d be lucky to get 3 to 5 customers a night, but over time they grew to the point where over the past few months we were consistently getting 15 to 25. I am proud of what we have done to grow shochu in NYC and we’ll be making an announcement soon about the future of shochu happy hours in NYC. Until then …