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Rogerio Igarashi Vaz: "Sometimes, you can learn more in a bar than at school"

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Rogerio Igarashi Vaz was born in Brazil, lived in Canada, but decided to move to Japan in order to find his roots. Seven years ago, working as a bar manager, he opened a tiny bar called Trench, which specializes in absinthe and absinthe cocktails.

The most important thing in a bar is the door. I always look at it. A guest opens it and instantly feels that people are happy to see them.

A bar is a place that allows you not to go straight home after work, but make a stop: discover something new, make a new acquaintance, or think something over. Sometimes, you can learn more in a bar than at school.

I’m a Brazilian, so there are always at least a couple of cocktails with cachaça at my bar.

My first job was at a tequila bar. My first cocktail was supposed to be a Margarita, but the head bartender didn’t like how I made it. Only after a few months did he allow me to serve them to guests.

The most important thing for a bar is a close connection with the neighborhood around it and its residents. Sometimes, I see a beautiful bar that is totally not a part of the area where it’s located. In my opinion, that creates an imbalance.

The majority of bars in Tokyo are very small. In the dense, cozy Japanese streets, you feel more comfortable. That’s why there’s always a close relationship between a bar and its guests.

The bartender’s work is only 5-10% of making a drink. The rest is hospitality. A cocktail can be beautiful, but if a guest feels uncomfortable in the bar, they’ll never say that it’s a good bar.

Sometimes, you can come up with a cocktail in a few seconds: a guest will give you an idea, and then boom – you’re done. But sometimes it takes several months.

For me, a cocktail isn’t all about taste. It’s a feeling, an emotion, sometimes even music that I try to give to my guests. Of course, I try not to communicate any kind of sadness with my drinks. But sometimes, it happens no matter what.

A bar’s team has to work completely in sync, from there very beginning. As soon as I see a person, I instantly know if they’ll become a part of the team or not. 

The hardest thing about my work is not getting to sleep at night. I like going to bed early and waking up early. I still haven’t learned to deal with that.

Ideas for new cocktails come from everywhere: from movies, situations in my life, or new dishes that I try. It’s always unexpected.

In 17 years of work, I understood that the basis of any conflict is always a misunderstanding.

 

Photo: Shinichi Yokoyama

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