By 19th Hole Staff | Feb. 12, 2018
Himitsu, Buckhead Atlanta’s most luxurious (by reservation only) Japanese craft cocktail lounge, offers guests the opportunity to sip their way through all 12 signs of Juni Shi, the Japanese zodiac, with a new cocktail menu from creative director Shingo Gokan — who is acclaimed for winning International Bartender of the Year at the 2017 Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards.
To develop the new drinks for Himitsu (secret), Gokan inventively honors the animals representing each zodiac sign. “The animals of the Juni Shi are known for their personalities and defining characteristics, so the cocktails follow suit,” says Gokan. “For example, the Ne (mouse) brings to mind cheese, so this cocktail is a Pisco Sour flavored with a hint of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The Tora (tiger) is a bourbon old fashioned flavored with butter and orange.”
Gokan incorporates two time-honored techniques to age the innovative libations featured on the new Himitsu cocktail menu, which debuted this month. Using a Kame (Japanese clay pot), he combines ingredients and allows them to rest together, a technique first perfected on the Japanese island of Kyushu. He calls this process “post-batch.” For example, to create the Mi (snake), Gokan combines Laphroaig 10 Year old single malt scotch with Old Umeshu in a clay pot. After careful aging, Himitsu bartenders use a small cylindrical steel cup called a venencia to aerate the mixture before serving the drink over ice.
Inspired by the mescal fermentation he observed at a distillery in Oaxaca, Mexico, Gokan is aging other cocktails in a cow leather bag, a process that infuses earthy tones into each glass. For the Ushi (ox), Gokan combines Mezcal Negroni with Mastiha, a Greek sap liqueur, in a leather bag designed for perfectly aging ingredients. “I always get inspirations from my travels,” Gokan explains. “I could be visiting a farm, a supermarket or a restaurant; I’m always taking notes.”
Other cleverly created cocktails on the new menu include Inu (dog) – a Salty Dog accented with a fig leaf; Saru (monkey) – a rum-based old fashioned with notes of banana and chocolate; and Uma (horse) – a Moscow Mule infused with Earl Grey tea.
Finally, for Himitsu’s new Tokyo Macchiato cocktail, Gokan reached back more than half a century. When American soldiers stationed in Japan wanted a drink while still on duty, savvy bartenders created a camouflaged cocktail for them. Gokan’s innovative take on this history is the Hitsuji (sheep) – a Gin Fizz, hidden under coffee and foam.
Several classics remain on the menu as well, including the Raichi, Toryufu, Kyuri, Serori, Yashinomi, Yuzu, Papurika and Kemuri cocktails.
Himitsu is from the team behind Umi modern Japanese restaurant. Located in the heart of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, Himitsu is meant to complement a night out at Umi. The unique Juni Shi program is the creation of world-renowned cocktail maestro Shingo Gokan. Chef Fuyuhiko Ito and Lisa Ito of Umi contribute to the small plates and late-night dessert menu.