Name: Rogerio Igarashi Vaz
Occupation: Co-owner of Bar Trench & Bar Tram in Tokyo
Dislikes: Natō (fermented soy bean)
1. What first brought you to Japan? My grandparents were Japanese and I wanted to see Japan with my own eyes.
2. What’s keeping you here? People. If you meet the right people at the right place, you can stay anywhere for a long time.
3. Who in Japan do you most admire? My grandfather, Takanobu Igarashi. I admire him for the courage to cross the Pacific Ocean, start from zero and set up a successful life in Brazil. He was a carpenter and used to build everything by wood — tables, chairs, even his own house.
4. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? Kamakura. It has the slow pace of the countryside and is just one hour from Tokyo by train.
5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? Ganbatte, which means: work hard, stick to it, do your best. That’s amazing! You do your best and then try to do better and better, again and again and again and again.
6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy” — Frank Sinatra. I’m starting to understand what Sinatra meant.
7. Describe your most embarrassing moment. I was in a rock band when I was younger. We once asked a friend to sing three songs at one of our gigs. I was supposed to join in during the third song, but walked on stage singing loudly right in the middle of the second song — a ballad.
8. If you were a cocktail, what kind of garnish would you be? A corncob.
9. Briefly describe the perfect cocktail. Cocktails that people have been drinking for more than 100 years — Manhattans, Martinis, Negronis and Old Fashions. These are simple cocktails based on three ingredients: a spirit, a sweet component and a sour component. When the three ingredients are well balanced, you have a perfect cocktail. If that beverage is served in a good atmosphere at the right time, you will have more than a perfect cocktail.
10. If you could drink any cocktail in history, what would it be? The Monkey Gland. It was created by Harry MacElhone at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris during Prohibition and named after the pioneered work of Serge Voronoff, who tried to rejuvenate male humans by transplanting monkey testicles. Interestingly, the Monkey Gland is popular with female customers in our bar, but I don’t think many of them know the history behind it.
11. What is the best cover song you have in your collection? Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” by Richard Cheese. When the atmosphere is too serious, I play it and people start to laugh.
12. What song best describes your work ethic? Floyd Dixon’s “Hey Bartender.” It’s a simple song that describes what often happens in my daily job. A customer orders one, two, three, four drinks at 1:30 a.m., and another one, two, three, four drinks at 4 a.m. When the call for last drinks goes out, it’s “Hey Bartender!”
13. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? Once a regular customer who used to drink pretty much everything asked me to make the most horrible drink in the bar. I served a glass of Guinness with tomato juice and tabasco. He couldn’t finish it.
14. How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? I don’t know how I would put an elephant into a refrigerator, but I once told a customer’s little daughter that I had tried to put an elephant into the bar but the door was too small and the elephant couldn’t squeeze in. Next time, I said I’d put a giraffe in the bar since the ceiling is quite high. Three years later, I met the girl again and she asked me if the giraffe was enjoying its stay in the bar. Kids have such good imaginations and memories.
15. What superhero would you most like to be? Spectreman. Spectreman was a TV Japanese hero from the 1970s. When I was a kid back in Brazil, Spectreman was huge. Every kid wanted to be him. However, no one in Japan knows who he is. Hey Spectreman, where are you?
16. What do you think about while standing on the train? Where has all that concrete outside come from?
17. Tell us a quick joke. Paul Newman once asked for a whiskey straight in a hotel bar. The bartender asked if he wanted some water and Paul Newman said, “I’m not dirty, I’m THIRSTY.”
18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? Tigers have a bigger brain than lions. The smatter one usually wins.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? A sailor.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Everyone can make a cocktail with a little practice. However, making cocktails is just 20 percent of the entire process. There is no bartender without a tender — the rest just comes along.
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