Marleigh Riggins is a print production artist and cocktail enthusiast in Los Angeles. She publishes the blog SLOSHED!
It may perhaps seem odd to take a seminar on Japanese-style bartending from a Slovakian bartender, at least until you learn a little about Stanislav Vadrna. Stanislav became interested in Japanese bartending in 2003 and was given the opportunity to train in Tokyo a year later. Since then he has become a major advocate for integrating the Eastern and Western philosophies of bartending in order to improve the level of service in Western bars. From his official Tales bio: “Executive Chef de Bar of Red Monkey Group… Stanislav’s long term mission is the rejuvenation of Professional Bartender Status and redefining Global Bar Industry Standards with his Ichigo-Ichie/Sprezzatura based philosophy.”
This year at Tales, Stanislav led a panel called “The Fine Art of Tending Bar,” which outlined his East-meets-West philosophy and demonstrated the techniques integral to the fine art of Japanese bartending. He sums up his philosophy in the phrase “ichigo – ichie = one opportunity – one encounter”. The motto of Japanese tea ceremony schools, it means that though the ceremony itself can be repeated, the moment in which the ceremony takes place is unique and cannot be repeated, and thus must be lived intently.
In his work behind the bar, this philosophy translates into a few key points. Firstly, the Holy Grail of the bar, which are the doors. It sounds strange, but the doors are the very first and very last impressions that customers will have and thus those should be as important as all the interactions in-between. Following that, bartenders should always strive to learn more and improve in their work, but when on the job they should be fully focused on where they are and what they are doing—again, one opportunity, one encounter. In Stan’s philosophy, this is the most important point besides being respectful, particularly of customers.
Following the outlines of his philosophy, Stan demonstrated the essential techniques of carving an ice ball from a cube, stirring, and shaking. The precision and expert quality of his techniques is hard to describe in writing, but I can say that the entire room was completely taken by them, and I’m pretty sure everyone went home and practiced them. In all, it was an incredible and informative seminar that has left me with a ton of information to work on when I get home.