Manabu Ohtake of Bellovisto at The Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, Tokyo was recently named as Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the year, following the finals in New Delhi. Ohtake came out on top having beaten 33 of the world’s best bartenders, including Jamie MacDonald from the Raconteur, Edinburgh who was flying the flag for the UK. The final was made up of six rounds, each judged by an industry icon.
Imbibe managed to get hold of the very busy Mr Ohtake for a quick chat about his adventures behind the stick and the eternal importance of a good Martini.
What first drew you to bartending?
16 years ago I started working at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel as a waiter at the restaurant. During my first year a guest ordered Hennessy X.O. and my boss asked me to get the drink from the bar. The bar was in its busiest hour and I remember standing behind a pillar so as not to be in anybody’s way while I observed the magic of the area. The unique shade of darkness in the room, the flicker of candles, it made the bar counter look like a stage under spotlights. I watched the bartender shake his shaker to a beautiful rhythm and thought, this man is so cool! The bartender poured the cocktail into a glass and his guest took a sip. The expression I saw spread across the customer’s face was of complete joy and bliss. The moment I saw that expression I thought, this is what I want to do.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
That a bartender must be a person of integrity. In the end it is the people that make the drinks. If a person tries hard enough there is good chance anyone can make a good tasting cocktail, but can you really enjoy a drink made by bartender you find hard to respect or trust as a person? The drink may have the taste, the question is will you enjoy it coming from this bartender? So I believe there is one thing more important than improving bartending skills, and that is improving your inner self.
Who or what has influenced your style the most?
I was greatly influenced by all my seniors and colleagues who were kind enough to guide me as they have all impacted on my personal style in some way. Recently my style is changing and this has thanks to Diageo Reserve World Class. Everything I experienced and learnt during the activities in Japan has influenced today’s Manabu Style.
If you could do a shift behind the bar with one person (alive or dead) who would it be and why?
The person I dream to work with right now is Japan’s master bartender and World Class global judge Hidetsugu Ueno-san! He is a man of tremendous knowledge on global bartending and it would be an honour to learn from such a great pioneer who is active around the world.
What’s your own favourite drink and why?
My favourite drink is the king of the cocktail, the Martini. It is a cocktail that you can spend your entire life trying to perfect. The Martini is truly a mirror that reflects the ever-evolving nature of the bartending profession.