Continuing our series on the four Ps of Japanese bartending as identified by Chivas Global Brand Ambassador Max Warner, we talk to Jimmy Barrat, Bar Development Manager, Zuma Middle East.

What I’ve learned: Jimmy Barrat on Politeness in Japanese bartending

There is a whole different level of politeness in Japan – it’s summed up by a word I use with all my guys here at Zuma which is my credo for hospitality and that’s Omotenashi. The best way to describe it is in the way that Japanese bartenders anticipate the needs of their guests; it’s done in a very subtle, very elegant way without anyone noticing or for any credit.

Let me give you an example. On the first morning of my visit to Tokyo, I was having coffee with a group of people at my hotel. A plate of assorted cookies was served with the coffee and I was the only person who had anything from the plate. But I only went for one type of cookie. The next day when I had coffee, again it came with a plate of cookies but this time instead of an assortment, the plate only had the one type of cookie that I’d eaten the day before on it. I didn’t know anyone had noticed that it was me who had eaten the cookies, or what my preference was but that kind of detail, that politeness and anticipation of the guests needs and going the extra mile, is typical of what you will experience in Japan. It’s unlike anywhere else.

When did you first visit Tokyo?

Three years ago and it was the most incredible trip of my life – it was completely game changing. It’s efficient, organised and inspiring in a most incredible way.  I’m still blown away by it.

Japanese barware, UmamiMart

Why was your visit important to you as a bartender?

It opened my eyes to the profession. In bartending, like everything you do in life, you mature. At the beginning of your career you focus on the product and technique but my trip to Japan changed my vision on what matters the most in our job and that’s the people. The people you host and the people you work with.

How has the your visit impacted on your bartending career?

Since my visit I now train my guys in the way of Omotenashi: to work work hard and always go the extra mile. That means doing the extra things that make your guests feel like they’re in your home, making them feel special – things like knowing what your regulars drink and having it ready for them, even when we’re really extremely busy. Even if you don’t know someone or what they want, service should be fast, efficient and friendly; don’t look down, look up, look around, there’s always something that can be done, someone who may need your assistance. Also, we’re not here to tell our guests what to like or to change their mind about what they want to drink. I hate that expression ‘to educate guests’, as bartenders we’re in the entertainment business. If someone wants a Mojito, it’s our job to make them the best Mojito they’ve ever had. It’s about having empathy which is something Japanese bartenders do exceptionally well.

Close-up cocktail, Zuma Dubai

What was the most fascinating/inspiring thing regarding bartending/hospitality that you learned while you were in Tokyo?

I like the way that the Japanese don’t necessarily create anything but they take a concept and make it better than anyone else. That and of course their amazing hospitality.

What tips would you give to cocktail lovers visiting Tokyo for the first time?

– Leave the hard shake to the Japanese – learn from them but don’t try to replicate; take things and adapt them to make them your own.
– Make some times to get to Osaka, it’s a fascinating city with plenty of newer style of bars compare to the more classic bars in Tokyo.
– Go and be inspired by the hospitality and their special way to anticipate the need of their guests.

Visiting Dubai? You can find Jimmy and experience his amazing hospitality at Zuma Dubai.

#ChivasMasters #ontheroadtotokyo

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