Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo’s Yukiyo Kurihara has earned her place as one of the top 10 bartenders in the world. She tells MO how

As the manager of Mandarin Bar, I open up at 11.30am. Guests enjoy relaxing and talking to us during the day, but evenings are busiest, with peak time from 10-11pm. A lot of our guests are international – couples, businessmen and artists – so I like to create a stylish, dramatic atmosphere. We close at midnight, sometimes later. But delighting our guests and being complimented for our organised manner keeps us motivated.

Mandarin Bar is different to other hotel bars in that all of my staff are women. There are some standalone bars with women-only bartenders in the city, but as a luxury hotel we offer a higher level of service. In fact, I want Mandarin Bar to be a role model for similar bars in Japan. Only two of our staff aren’t qualified, but they are taking exams. So, soon I will be able to say we have the most talented bartenders!

I also want our female guests to feel free to drop in alone. Typical hotel bars in Tokyo are located at the end of the floor and have a dark, ‘closed’ atmosphere – more for men. Mandarin Bar, however, is open yet cosy and it’s located between two restaurants, so everyone has to pass by.

The attitude we have is elegant and sophisticated but cool and punchy, too, just like our cocktails! And we are keen on presentation, such as sifting lemon peel over the drink to serve. My signature cocktail, the Glorious Martini, always leaves an impression. It’s made of Galliano (vanilla), rose syrup and Grand Marnier, plus lemon juice. I always rub the side of the glass with lemon peel to let the customer enjoy the aroma – like a woman scenting perfume behind the ear – and put coarse sugar on it; the sugar is white and natural in colour, so it sparkles like jewels. I also create new cocktails seasonally, such as my spring cherry-blossom cocktail and a frozen one for summer.

Most people ask for a martini, so we have a selection of about 20. Mojitos are also popular – we have four, including my original Japanese mojito. It’s based on imo-jochu (sweet-potato shochu) and is cool-looking and tasty.

When I’m not fixing other people’s drinks, I often go out in Ginza – it has the nicest bars. But I do like Nihonbashi, where our hotel is located. It used to be the centre of Edo (Tokyo was called Edo 300 years ago), so it has history and tradition. And it’s still the business centre, with a mix of true Tokyoites and foreigners. Like the rest of Tokyo, it never sleeps but is always friendly.

Back To Top

Related Articles