Hidetsugu Ueno may be the most soft spoken person we’ve interviewed on Drink Spirits. Hidetsugu Ueno speaks in lower case, with a modesty that’s extremely rare in the spirits industry. Hidetsugu Ueno is an uncomfortable ambassador for Japanese bartending, a label that he quickly explains away by saying he’s just a Japanese bartender who speaks English.
Internationally recognized for introducing Western bartenders to Japanese bartending techniques, Uenosan is also one of the foremost experts on ice. He is to ice what some of the great sushi masters are to fish, but he’s the first person to say that it doesn’t really matter if great service doesn’t accompany it.
Hidetsugu Ueno tends bar in a small eight foot bar in Tokyo called Bar High Five that doesn’t allow anyone to stand or wait. Even with two full bartenders, Hidetsugu Ueno muses about adding a third.
Without an ice machine, Hidetsugu Ueno gets daily deliveries of ice blocks which are meticulously cut down into ice balls and cubes. But it’s Hidetsugu Ueno’s approach to the customer that’s really revolutionary. In an age with so much focus on mixology and unique cocktails, Hidetsugu Ueno speaks of the immense importance of service and the impact it has on the drinking experience.
We also talk to Hidetsugu Ueno about Japanese Whisky, and we help dispel some misunderstandings on how it should be consumed and when.
Hidetsugu Ueno is very soft spoken, so we did our best to amplify the audio of him speaking, but in many ways that’s Hidetsugu. He is an amazing man who speaks softly and carries a shaker. You need to lean in and listen, because even though he’d never admit it, he’s one of the most facinating men in spirits.