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The Japanese Masters Series

Japan has always held a special place at Empirical. We are forever inspired by its culture, cuisine and techniques that we are applying daily to our own processes and production.

From our visits, we have learned from masters in their fields and formed lasting friendships. Seeing our products in their hands has always been an aspiration of ours. We are honoured to celebrate the launch of Empirical in Japan and asked five Master Bartenders to share their thoughts on our core products and showcase their interpretation through unique cocktails.

The serves that we will share with you focus on different approaches to cocktail-making, each one sublimating our spirits.

1/ Hiroyasu Kayama

Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo

Kayama-san opened the award winning Bar Benfiddich in Tokyo in 2013 with a special focus on botanical spirits and foraged ingredients that he picks himself in his Tokigawa field. He is the winner of The Botanist Foraged Cocktail Competition in Japan. Bar Benfiddich has been featured in the World’s 50 Best Bars list for several consecutive years, ranking 9th in Asia and 32nd in the world in 2021.

Kayama-san met Lars several years ago and the two rapidly discovered a common interest in flavor, Japanese cocktail making and wild ingredients. Since then, Lars never missed an occasion to stop by Bar Benfiddich during his visits to Tokyo, sharing long passionate discussions around a drink.

Kayama-san’s first impression upon tasting The Plum, I Suppose and Ayuuk, was the length and layers of flavors showcased in each spirit: “They both stand on their own and are reminiscent of a full cocktail. The work of the distillers shine through the spirits. They defy every traditional category and in that way, they are an embodiment of Lars.”

In the two cocktails he created, he chose to approach the spirits as an end product, using very few ingredients to support the flavors of the spirits and let them shine.

Discover Kayama-san's approach:

2/ Yusuke Takamiya

Tigrato, Tokyo

Yusuke Takamiya is head bartender and director of Tokyo’s Tigrato, which opened in 2018 with the vision to make quality cocktails more approachable. Beside their beautifully crafted drinks, guests enjoy a range of specialty coffees and a wide selection of homemade gelato.

As he tasted Ayuuk and The Plum, I Suppose, Takamiya-san felt that ”Empirical’s flavor-first approach transpires through the spirits’ unique personalities”. His first instinct was to pair the delicate layers of The Plum with citrus fruits such as grapefruit or Shonan Gold and tonic. For Ayuuk, Takamiya-san explored twists on a Bloody Mary. But, as he says. “the more I tasted them, the more ideas came up”.

In true Tigrato fashion, Takamiya-san explored the synergies between specialty coffee and our spirits in two distinctive cocktails.

Discover Takamiya-san's approach:

3/ Soran Nomura

ABV+, Tokyo

Soran Nomura worked in several bars in London and Tokyo before starting his drink consulting company ABV+. He recently opened tea & library bar 青淵-Ao- and set up to promote the use of teas and Chinese medicine techniques into cocktails.

As he tasted our spirits, Nomura-san had different drinking occasions in mind: “I see Ayuuk as a smoky apéritif that opens your appetite, while The Plum, I Suppose is a light, and refreshing alternative for dessert liquors. Empirical spirits are in a category of their own.”

With Ayuuk and The Plum, I Suppose, he explored different infusions, focusing on tea leaves and seaweed to elevate the flavor of our spirits.

Discover Somura-san's approach:

4/ Atsushi Suzuki 

The Bellwood, Tokyo

Atsushi Suzuki has worked behind bars around the world, in Tokyo, New York, London and Toronto. After compiling a bounty of international awards, he started the "Bellwood Experiment Inc." in 2018 and the doors of The Bellwood opened in Tokyo in 2020.

Suzuki-san is familiar with Empirical spirits but at times finds it challenging to describe them. “The flavors of The Plum, I Suppose lie somewhere between a dry plum wine, apricot, and rum agricole. On the other hand, the potent aromas of the Pasilla Mixe chili in Ayuuk are reminiscent of mezcal”. 

Suzuki-san created the two cocktails as a medium to explain Empirical spirits through story-telling.

Discover Suzuki-san approach:

5/ Kazunori Shizuya

Shinjuku Whisky Salon, Tokyo

Kazunori Shizuya is the owner and head bartender of BAR LIVET and BAR Shinjuku Whiskey Salon in Shinjuku, Tokyo. He is part of Whisktail.tokyo, a team of bartenders whose goal is to develop and popularize whisky-based cocktails. He’s a certified Master of Whiskey and a regular contributor for Whisky Galore magazine.

As he took his first sip of The Plum, I Suppose, Shizuya-san was struck but its fruity and refreshing nuances. “It tastes just like a plum! But its expression is very different from sweet liqueurs or Eastern European fruit spirits I tasted before”. The delicate spice-forward and smoky notes of Ayuuk reminded him of umami broths and soups. 

“I can’t think of any existing spirits that taste like Empirical’s. Their flavor-first approach is what makes the spirits so unique.” 

Shizuya-san took a culinary approach to create two cocktails, showcasing the umami layers of Ayuuk and the fruitiness of The Plum, I Suppose

Discover Shizuya-san approach: