Ryukyu Mixology Style Bar Alchemist, using the latest equipment and materials produced in Okinawa.
Have you heard of the term “mixology”? Mixology is a word coined from the combination of the words “mix” and “ology” (Science). Bars that offer cocktails filled with ideas that incorporate the latest cooking methods without being bound by existing frameworks are beginning to attract attention around the world. I would like to introduce to you the first mixology bar in Okinawa, Ryukyu Mixology Style Bar Alchemist. We spoke with bartender Tomoaki Nakamura.
−What kind of bar is Ryukyu Mixology Style Bar Alchemist?
It is a bar that serves original cocktails using the latest equipment and Okinawan ingredients.
−What is the latest equipment, for example?
Espuma, smoke machines, liquid nitrogen, food dryers, distillers, aroma smoke, vacuum cookers, carbonate shakers, etc. Espuma turns the ingredients into a mousse-like foam, creating a light and fluffy texture and rich flavor. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze drinks to make frozen cocktails, while we use distillers for wormwood and moonflowers, for example, to make aromatic distilled water and syrups. The food dryer is used to dry tomatoes, bitter melon, citrus fruits, and other fruits to add a finishing touch to cocktails.
−You have been bartending for a long time, how long have you been bartending?
I started bartending when I was 19, so this is my 20th year.
I am from Kumamoto Prefecture, and when I first moved to Okinawa, I was working part-time at a bar at night while attending a vocational school for childcare workers. After graduating from the school, I became a nursery schoolteacher, but it was not enough to make a living, so I continued to work part-time at the bar. I think it was in the middle of my second year as a nursery schoolteacher that I became interested in being a “flare bartender”, making cocktails while performing, and I was allowed to work at a flare bar two to three times a week to train. I was working three jobs at the same time, so it was getting harder and harder for me. My interest in flare bartending was at its highest. That’s when I was approached by a flare bar. It was a bar called “Eclipse” in Chatan. I worked there for three years. After that, I worked as an outsourcer at a flair bar in Okinawa City for three years, then at the food and beverage department of the Okinawa T-shirt brand HABUBOX in Chatan for two years, at the Roisir Hotel in Naha for three years, and at the Sheraton Hotel for two years before launching Alchemist in August 2018.
−Why did you decide to open a mixology bar? How did you get started?
When I started working at the Loisir Hotel, I started to participate in cocktail competitions and shows all over Japan. I knew I wanted to work as a traveling flair bartender, so I wanted to increase my awards and achievements. I think it was around 2015 or 2016, when I stopped by the bar “Benfiddich” in Shinjuku after the Kanto Tournament was over. There was a guest bartender from N Y that day, and many of Japan’s top bartenders were there to watch. I was able to join the social gathering afterwards, and I found it interesting that everyone had a different take on cocktails. At that time, I thought to myself. I thought, “I want to do mixology with a solid foundation. At that time, there were no mixology bars in Okinawa, so I decided to become the “first penguin”.
−Why is the name of the restaurant “Ryukyu”?
This is because we are particular about Okinawa. Shikwasa, shell ginger, huchibar (mugwort), red sweet potatoes, bitter gourd, sanping tea, island chili peppers, etc… We use Okinawan ingredients as much as possible, and in addition to ingredients, we also use utensils made by artists working in Okinawa such as Yoshiaki Imamura, Gaku Yamagami, and Nobuko Konno. For the food menu, we purchase from “Timeless Chocolate”, Okinawa’s first bean to bar style chocolate specialty store, and “TESIO”, a specialty store of homemade ham and sausage in Okinawa City. We named the store “Ryukyu” because we want to support the people who are working hard in the prefecture, and we also want to make it a store that can revitalize the economy of Okinawa.
−How many different cocktails do you have? I’ve never seen these cocktails anywhere else.
I think we have about 60 to 70 original cocktails. Some of them are made for bar hoppers and bar lovers, while others are easy to understand for people who are not used to going to bars. I refer to a lot of things. I refer to books written by chefs and pâtissiers, and to the combination of essential oils in aromatherapy. I love books, so I read and study books of various genres.
When I think of an original menu, I first decide on a theme. For example, if the theme is “passion fruit,” I think of the herbs and spices that go well with passion fruit, and then I think, “Let’s add a little acidity.” Then I think of a recipe in my head. Once you have a good idea of what you want to do, try making it and drinking it to make sure you can feel the flavors of all the ingredients used. Then I add or subtract ingredients. My goal is to create a cocktail that can be tasted with all five senses.
−Why do you stock Masahiro Okinawa Gin?
I decided to use all the craft gins from Okinawa for my store that focuses on Okinawa. Masahiro Okinawa Gin was the first craft gin to be produced in Okinawa, so it’s very well known. There are three companies selling craft gin in Okinawa, and I think it’s interesting that each one has its own personality.
−What is your impression of Mahiro Okinawa Gin compared to the other two companies?
The Awamori flavor was still there, which was controversial to the bartender (laughs), but to the general public, it might be better to have this Awamori flavor to make it more “Okinawan. In addition to the Awamori, the Shikwasa aroma also comes out in a buzz, so even if someone who is not used to making cocktails were to make one at home using Masahiro Okinawa Gin, I don’t think the characteristics would be lost.
−What are the cocktails using Masahiro Okinawa Gin that are available here?
The “Masahiro Okinawa Gin and Tonic” gives you a simple taste of six botanicals, and the “Masahiro Espresso Gin and Tonic” is made with “Masahiro Okinawa Gin Recipe 02,” which uses tangerine, a popular ingredient in Okinawa.
The Masahiro Espresso Gin and Tonic is a cocktail made with tangerine flavored Masahiro Okinawa Gin, a small amount of vodka flavored with homemade cassia cinnamon, tonic water, and finished with espresso brewed with shallow roasted Yirgacheffe coffee beans.
I tried the coffee beans in a deeper roast, but the shallow roast was more in line with the citrus flavor and the espresso flavor.
−How would you have Masahiro Okinawa Gin at home?
Chill the gin in the freezer beforehand. I think a good gin and tonic is to fill a glass with ice, pour in the gin that has been chilled in the freezer, and then pour the chilled soda into the glass. The important thing is to keep the temperature of the gin down. That way, when you pour the soda, the aroma will come through. Since a bottle of gin takes up a lot of space, you can also put some Masahiro Okinawa Gin in a glass and chill it in the freezer. I thought that the flavor of Masahiro Okinawa Gin would come out better if it was simply drunk.
−What foods go well with gin and tonic?
The gin and tonic are refreshing and it’s a wash. So, I think it goes well with anything that makes your mouth feel thick. For example, Goya champuru. You fry it in oil, right? The gin and tonic cleanses the mouth, doesn’t it?
−What is your favorite spot in Okinawa?
There are many, but I like to visit the ocean and cafes in Nanjo City. It’s just the right distance from Naha, isn’t it? I feel happy when I drive to Nanjo City and relax while enjoying the scenery from the cafes.
Ryukyu Mixology Style Bar Alchemist
Photo text：Sachiko Tachi
MASAHIRO Okinawa Gin Aroma × HOT DOG with herbs is a perfect combination
Just a short walk from Makishi Station on Okinawa’s only railroad, Yui Rail, 13 TRECE is located along the Asato River. Open from 12:00 noon to 4:00 a.m. the next morning, it is a convenient place to stop by not only for lunch or a cafe, but also for a drink after work, a meeting before dinner, or a for a night cap after a long night of drinking. For this interview, I spoke with Norikazu Ishikawa, the most experienced of the three staff members working at 13 TRECE.
−What does the name of the store mean?
T R E C E is the Spanish word for the number “13”. The store’s address is 1-1-3 Asato, Naha City, so it was named after the number 13.
−What made you decide to open the store?
The owner, who is originally from Okinawa and had been in Tokyo for a while, thought that it would be nice if there was a bar where locals could casually stop by when they came back to Okinawa. He found this place by accident when he first started looking for a place to live. At the time, half of the store was a clothing store, and the store owner asked me if I wanted to do something with him. So, I decided to open a bar here. When it first opened, it was a bar where you could enjoy both shopping and drinking. That store closed about four years ago, so now the entire area is 13 T R E C E.
−What kind of bar is this? What are the guests like?
It is a bar where people from all walks of life can interact with each other. The customers who come here range in age from young to old, and their occupations vary widely. But when people meet here, they all somehow become friends and leave happily.
−You are open from 12:00 to 4:00 in the morning, how do most of your customers spend their time?
In the afternoon and evening, there are people who want to relax, and on holidays, there are people who want to drink. In the evening, many people come to enjoy a drink with a light snack, or for a stop along their bar hopping night.
−Because of its location, there must be a lot of tourists?
As more and more restaurants are closed due to the Corona Virus, tourists sometimes drop by at night when the lights are still on. But in fact, most of the visitors are locals, especially the regulars.
-What made you start working at 13 TRECE?
It opened in 2015, and at first the owner was running the store alone. Then I joined. The owner and I had always known each other. At the time, I was working in a completely different field, but he asked me if I wanted to work with him. We currently have three staff members, who work in shifts. I oversee lunch. At first, I had to work the night shift, which was very difficult. I had been working during the day until then, so I guess I suddenly became a night owl and lost my rhythm. There were more opportunities to drink with customers, and I had to drink more than before… I was not in perfect physical condition at times. But it was fun to drink with customers, so it wasn’t all disadvantages.
−What is the most popular menu item at your restaurant?
The most popular food item is the hot dog. The sausages are thick with herbs kneaded into them, making them very satisfying to eat. The secret is to fry the sausages slowly over low heat using an iron frying pan, and the bread is carefully cooked so that the edges are crispy, and the inside is fluffy. We have a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, from Awamori to Shochu, liqueur, tequila, beer, wine, and more.
−Reason behind Masahiro Okinawan Gin
Masahiro Okinawan Gin had been talked about since it was first released, so I knew of its existence. I had never drunk it before, but a friend of mine recommended it to me, so I thought, “I’ll try it in the store.”
−How did you like the taste of it?
First, the bottle is cool, isn’t it? It’s made by Awamori brewery , so even though it’s gin, it has an Awamori feel to it. I don’t usually drink much Awamori, but I thought that Masahiro Okinawan Gin was delicious. It is easy to drink, so even people who don’t like Awamori will find it delicious. I would like to recommend it to people outside the prefecture as well.
−What is the recommended way to drink Masahiro Okinawan Gin?
I personally think it is delicious to put 45ml of Masahiro Okinawa Gin in a glass, squeeze a lime, and pour tonic water and soda over it. For those who like it sweet, I serve it with more tonic water, and conversely, for those who like it less sweet, I serve it with a higher ratio of soda.
−13 T R E C E’s recommended dishes to go with Masahiro Okinawan Gin
The hot dog! Masahiro Okinawa Gin contains refreshing ingredients such as Shikwasa, juniper berries, and piperch, so it goes well with meat-based hotdogs.
−What is the recommended way to drink if you want to enjoy it at home?
The easiest way to drink it is with soda. If you squeeze some citrus or shikwasa into it, it will taste even better. If you don’t have any citrus fruits, you can use Pokka lemon.
−At home, what kind of food do you think would be good to pair with Masahiro Okinawa Gin drinks?
I think it goes well with meat-based dishes that are not too heavy. Chicken steak, for example.
−What are the future goals of 13 T R E C E?
To keep going for now… Even if there are other developments, the owner and I have discussed that this is our base. I would also like to hold more events in the future. Up until now, we have held music events, invited our restaurant friends to make tacos, Okinawa soba noodles, and so on, and all of them have been very successful. We would like to continue to come up with new plans and hold events that our customers can enjoy.
−Mr. Ishikawa, what spots in Okinawa do you recommend?
I was born and raised in Okinawa, but now that I am an adult, I have a new appreciation for Okinawa. It is easy to live in, and I now understand the feelings of tourists who say they “love Okinawa.” Naha has its “own charm”, the central part has its own charm, the northern part has its “own charm”, and all of Okinawa has its “”. If you come to Okinawa as a tourist, I would like you to see everything from North to South.
13 T R E C E Address：Asato Uehara Building 101, 1-1-3 Asato, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture Telephone：098-800-1245 Operation Hours：12:00〜 4:00am Days closed vart.
Photo &text：Sachiko Tachi English translated : Tom Harwood
Enjoy a lovely citrus aroma from Masahiro Okinawa Gin × PLENTY OF MEAT BBQ”
All located within the 660 square meter area “MARINX HARBOUR” has a marine store, cafe, apparel store, BBQ terrace, hair salon, and grind pool, it is a place you can stay and have fun with day-to-day activities that local Okinawan’s love. For this interview, we spoke with Yukihiro Oshiro, the facility manager. Mr. Oshiro is a licensed beautician, diver, PADI dive master, and EFR certified, making him an all-around talented person. Sometimes he even stands in a cafe.
−Please tell us the concept behind MARINX HARBOR.
The subtitle of our company (MARINX Co., Ltd.) is “Okinawan Lifestyle Project”, and we aim to create a facility that communicates the charms of Okinawa. I hope that I can help people who come to Okinawa spend their days feeling as glamorous and happy as possible… We strive to create a facility where you can experience all the beauty of Okinawa.
−How did you start your business?
It started in 2019 as a relocation and reopening from Nanjo City, right next door, to Minatogawa, Yaese-cho. We had been operating in Nanjo City for about six years. At that time, our main businesses were marine services and hair salons, but when we moved here, we made it possible for people to experience a variety of things in the facility, including lodging, restaurants, hair salons, marine services, BBQ terrace, swimming pool, and skate park.
−Why Yaese Town?
When you think of tourist spots in Okinawa, you probably have a strong image of the west coast, such as Onnamura and Chatan. We decided on this location because we wanted to promote the charms of areas that are still not so well known. I know many people go to Kerama for diving and snorkeling, but there are still places on the main island of Okinawa that are not well known. I wanted to discover the charms of these local areas and share them with people.
−What is the appeal of Yaese Town?
MARINX HARBOR is in an area called Minatogawa, which is a 20-to-30-minute drive from Naha. Just taking a walk there makes you feel relaxed.
It takes about 25 minutes by ferry (about 15 minutes by high-speed boat) from Azama Port in Nanjo City to Kudaka Island, which is said to be the Island of God, and we have a boat at a nearby fishing port. The time varies a bit depending on the strait, but it takes about 30-40 minutes to get there. It’s a cruising tour where you land on Kudaka Island, take a walk, and come back. I think we can start this summer
−How do most people use this facility?
After enjoying marine activities such as diving and swimming, many people come to the salon to have a head spa or enjoy a BBQ. Many guests from outside the prefecture and those who live in the northern part of the main island of Okinawa also stay here and enjoy our facilities.
−What room types are available?
There are eight rooms in two patterns: dormitory type and twin room. The dormitory type rooms have bunk beds. The rooms are tight, but we have made them so that you can experience the feeling of traveling around in a van. The twin room has an ocean view. The room is white and clean, with a semi-double bed allowing you to have a comfortable stay.
−Are the salons, cafes, and activities open to non-guests?
Yes, they are. Many people use it that way. In addition to the hair salon (by appointment only) and the BBQ terrace (please make reservation 3 days in advance), those who place one order at the cafe can use the pool (from summer until the end of October) and showers for free. The pool is drained and becomes a skating bowl in the winter.
−Who are the majority of guests?
We are gradually gaining recognition from tourists. People who live in the prefecture also come to our cafe. People who live in the northern part of the prefecture or Naha also stop by and use the café on a leisurely drive or enjoy a BBQ with their families.
−Please tell us why you decided to add Masahiro Okinawa Gin to your menu.
Although Masahiro Shuzo has been producing Awamori in Okinawa for over 100 years, they have newly started producing Gin. I find this very impressive and further boasts the culture of Okinawa. I also share the same passion to promote this region of Japan.
−What was your impression when you finally drank it?
I thought it was refreshing and easy to drink, with a citrusy aroma. Even if you don’t like Awamori, you might enjoy drinking Masahiro Okinawa Gin.
−What is the best way to enjoy it at home?
Like an Awamori highball, with a refreshing taste of Masahiro Okinawa Gin mixed with soda water and a squeeze of Shikwasa. It goes well with sashimi and fish dishes.
−This time, MARINX HARBOR will be serving Masahiro Okinawa Gin with the a BBQ, is it a good match?
A gin and tonic based cocktail would go well with our BBQ. A bit of lime or Shikwasa makes it even more refreshing and gulp able.
−What kind of BBQ is available here?
The set includes 80g of the finest grain beef loin steak, 80g of beef fillet, 80g of pork loin, 50g of herb chicken, seasonal vegetables, bone-in flank, and two whimsical ingredients for 2,750 yen (table charge and drinks are extra). I wanted people to be able to taste a variety of meats. The whimsical ingredients tend to be seafood and mushrooms, but it really depends on the whim of the moment… The BBQ terrace is available for a minimum of two people. Please make Reservation 3 days in advance. Due to its popularity during the summer season, early reservation is recommended for larger groups.
−Goals for the future?
This facility is still not well known, but I believe that the possibilities are endless. I’d like to promote it more so that people can enjoy the facility to the fullest, and I’d like to share information not only about MARINX HARBOR, but also about “Okinawa” as a whole.
−Please tell us about your recommended favorite spots.
I like Giza Banta, which is about a 15-minute drive from here, I go there from time to time. The view of the natural cliffs is powerful, and you stare at the Pacific Ocean from there. I’m often asked by customers for a recommendation, so I often guide them to Giza Banta.