Over the past year or so, bartenders Eddie Kim and Jesse Selvagn have assembled a collection of more than 50 Japanese whiskies, including some not available elsewhere in D.C. Now, they're giving the public the chance to taste and learn about many of these whiskies—as well as other Japanese beverages like sake and shochu—with a new pop-up at Petworth's Crane & Turtle called Bar Otsukare.
The first pop-up will take place Mon., June 29, and tickets are available on Eventbrite for $75. The debut seminar and tasting will include six whiskies from Nikka and Suntory distilleries that are aged from 12 to 17 years as well as a whisky highball. Crane & Turtle chef Makoto Hamamura will serve up bar snacks to go along with the spirits.
After the class (which lasts from 6:30 to 9 p.m.), Bar Otsukare will open to the general public for a rotating selection of la carte whiskies, shochus, and sakes. (See list below.) Kim and Selvagn say they will offer lower price points than most bars and restaurants because they're a pop-up and thus aren't burdened by rent and other major overhead costs. There won't be cocktails for now.
Kim says the idea is not just to give tasting notes but also to introduce people to Japanese culture by discussing why the whiskies are made a certain way and how Japanese people drink actually them. For example, many of the Japanese whiskies available in the U.S. have been marketed as luxury products. But for the most part, the Japanese drink their whisky very humbly with cold water or soda water. "They're just everyday drinks," Kim says. "They're not necessarily these super precious commodities." He points out that whisky highballs and sake are available from vending machines in the streets in Japan.
Kim, who works at the Partisan, and Selvagn, a bartender at Crane & Turtle and Right Proper Brewing Company, got particularly interested in Japanese whiskey while working together at Daikaya.
"It's not like beer culture here. It's not like bourbon culture here," Kim says. "There's still a large gap of knowledge."
Bar Otsukare gets its name from the phrase “otsukaresama deshita," which is meant to thank co-workers for their efforts after a hard day's work and is also used when sharing a well-earned drink.
Kim and Selvagn hope to do at least five pop-ups throughout the summer that will focus on different Japanese beverages. (Selvagn is a Certified Sake Advisor.) They're also hoping to takeover other locations, like coffee shops and galleries.
Take a look at some of the products that will be available on June 29 below.
Nikka Night Bottle List Whisky
1. Yoichi 12 Year Single Malt
2. Yoichi 12 Year – Sherry and Sweet – Component Yoichi malt for blending
3. Yoichi 12 Year – Peaty and Salty– Component Yoichi malt for blending
4. Yoichi 15 Year Single Malt
5. Yoichi 20 Year Single Malt
6. Miyagikyo 12 Year Single Malt
7. Miyagikyo 15 Year Single Malt
8. Tsuru 17 Year – Special blend created to showcase the essence of Nikka's smooth, mellow malt
9. Taketsuru 21 Year Single Malt
10. Taketsuru 21 Year Madeira Cask Finish – 1/500 Bottles released for Nikka's 80th anniversary
11. Nikka Coffey Grain – Single Grain Whisky distilled in the Miyagikyo's 1960's era Coffey Patent stills
12. Nikka Coffey Malt – Single Malt Whisky distilled in the Miyagikyo's 1960's era Coffey Patent stills
13. Nikka 1990's Blend – Blend of vintage malts distilled during 1990's
1. Chiyomusubi Oni no Shitaburui Honjozo – “Quivering Tongued Demon” named after the legend of Princess Tamahime and the crocodile
2. Oze no Yukidoke Omachi Junmai Ginjo – Made from Omachi, known as the original sake rice, in brewery with just 4 kurobito (brewers), 2 of whom are toji (master sake brewers)
3. Suigei Tokubetsu Junmai – “Drunken Whale” Brewed in Kochi, home to Chef Makoto
4. Tengumai Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo Kokoshu – “Dancing Goblin” Brewed using the traditional, labor intensive Yamahai Method and aged 3 Years
5. Ohyama Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori – Refined, dry Nigorizake from a brewery that made sake for the Shogun in the 19th century
1. Satsuma Kurodashi Genshu – Limited production, undiluted shochu from Kogane Sengan sweet potatos. Bottled at 37% abv rather than the typical 25%
2. Tori Kai – A masterpiece of smooth, Ginjo style rice shochu produced by the same family since 1575
3. Ginza no Suzume Kohaku – Aged 3 years in ex-bourbon barrels from one of the best known barley shochu producers
4. Zuisen Awamori – Traditional clay pot ageing makes this a particularly smooth Awamori shochu
5. Beniotome Goma – Distillation of roasted sesame and barley produces a round, complex, peanut buttery flavor
Photo of Crane & Turtle by Jessica Sidman