Mixologist of the Month: Chie Okubo
The mixologist at Aoyama Bar Rage in Tokyo dishes on Japanese cocktail culture and shares a simple summer recipe.
In Japan, mixology is a finely tuned, highly competitive art form. Aoyama Bar Rage, one of five popular Bar Rage lounges scattered throughout Tokyo’s most fashionable districts, is known for mixologists like Chie Okubo and for impeccably seasonal cocktails.
“Mixology culture in Japan is centered on maximizing the highest quality ingredients obtainable,” she says.
Everything must be fresh and at the peak of ripeness, so Okubo’s cocktail menu shifts according to the bevy of seasonal fruits, herbs and vegetables displayed throughout the lounge.
Beyond the classics that serve as her foundation, Okubo’s original creations pay homage to traditional Japanese fruits like the sweet, superconcentrated kyoho grape; tart, summer tangerines called natsumikan; or fragrant, zesty yuzu.
Okubo’s inspiration as a mixologist is rooted in her childhood, which is not unusual in a culture where alcohol is generally accepted within the sphere of family life.
In middle school, Okubo once tagged along with her mother to a bar. Observing her mother’s enchantment with an impeccably prepared cocktail, Okubo decided that she wanted to make cocktails that would make her mother just as happy. Immediately after graduating from high school, she entered bartending school.
“Back then,” she says, “it was called bartending school because the word ‘mixology’ didn’t even exist in Japan!”
Now seven years into her tenure at Aoyama Bar Rage, Okubo strives for “cocktails that are bold and dramatic, yet subtle and complex.”
“There are so many cocktail bars in Tokyo,” she says, “but at Bar Rage we challenge ourselves every day to change the shape of what we do and develop. I have a tendency to get bored easily, and being here gives me the stimulus to keep learning.”