Masahiro Urushido, Director of Deliciousness of Katana Kitten in New York, has been named the winner of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2022. This award is voted for by the head bartenders at the venues on this year’s inaugural list of North America’s 50 Best Bars, who are asked to name one peer who pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a great bartender.
This is the second in a series of special pre-announced awards in the month leading up to the first-ever announcement of North America’s 50 Best Bars 2022, sponsored by Perrier, at a live, in-person awards ceremony taking place at Capitale in New York City on June 7, 2022 at 8pm EDT. North America’s 50 Best Bars joins market-leading The World’s 50 Best Bars and Asia’s 50 Best Bars, which provide consumers with the most reliable list of expert-approved drinking destinations anywhere in the world.
Mark Sansom, Content Director for 50 Best, says: “Masahiro has built a stellar reputation on two continents, both in his native Japan and his adopted home in the USA. His mixological virtuosity, boundless hospitality and megawatt smile have made him beloved by bartenders and guests around the globe. At Katana Kitten, Masahiro and his team created something truly original and exciting by melding the meticulous precision of Ginza bars with the relaxed conviviality of izakaya seen through the lens of a New York neighbourhood bar. With legions of fans globally, Masahiro still takes time to make each guest feel celebrated, whether they are regulars, drinks industry stars or just everyday folks. He truly exemplifies what being an Altos Bartenders’ Bartender really means.”
A beginning of the dream team
Seeking a bar that he could put his own stamp on, Urushido joined forces with Cocktail Kingdom’s Greg Boehm and James Tune to open Katana Kitten, a Japanese-American bar that gives equal respect and prominence to both formidable drinking traditions. In its first year, the bar vaulted to No.14 on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 list, earning Best New Opening, and surged to No.10 in 2021. Beyond serving world-class highballs, boilermakers and high concept cocktails, the bar is pervaded by Urushido’s obsession with serving guests perfectly timed ‘surprises’ that may be a little bit weird or charmingly puzzling. Urushido’s acclaim now also extends to the printed word with the James Beard Media Award-nominated book, The Japanese Art of the Cocktail.
Arriving in the Big Apple and expanding his bartending repertoire
Urushido, already trained in fine dining restaurants and bars in Japan, had initially set his sights on New York City, landing a job at Kingswood, where he impressed with his Tokyo-honed ice-carving skills. This led to a position at the award-winning Saxon + Parole, working closely with his bartending soulmate, Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Jimenez along with the team built by Naren Young and Linden Pride. It was here, and later at The Daily, that Urushido further developed skills and techniques to cocktail making and his unique approach to celebrating guest service.
Bringing vivid sensual memories to Tokyo
Urushido grew up in Nagano Prefecture, a region better known for its ski slopes and local agriculture. Growing up in the countryside and helping his grandparents’ harvests endowed him with an appreciation of ingredients and sense memories that would later electrify his mixological endeavours. Japan’s capital beckoned and, starting as a pizza deliverer, Urushido worked his way into fine dining hotspots, Tableaux and Dazzle, where he discovered exquisite cocktails and underwent rigorous apprenticeships with bartending sensei.
On winning the award, Urushido says: “I was surprised, grateful and very honoured to be recognized by my peers. I love my job and feel lucky to be a part of this global community. I want to thank my Katana Kitten team, mentors and my family for all the support to get here.”
Carlos Andrés Ramírez, Head of Global Advocacy & PR House of Tequila-Pernod Ricard, says: “Since the creation of Altos Tequila and the Tahona Society, we have been supporting the bartender community in different career opportunities, welfare and networking initiatives. Congratulations to Masahiro from Katana Kitten for winning the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award – we can’t think of a more deserving award than this one to recognize his career. Thank you to North America’s 50 Best Bars for this first incredible initiative.”
The Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award was introduced to The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2017 and the winner in its inaugural year was Iain Griffiths of Dandelyan. Joe Schofield of Schofield’s Bar in Manchester, UK, was the recipient in 2018; Monica Berg of Tayēr + Elementary, London, took the laurels in 2019; Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni, of Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires, won in 2020; and Lynnette Marrero of Llama Inn, New York, and Speed Rack, earned the lofty title in 2021.
The inaugural edition of North America’s 50 Best Bars, sponsored by Perrier, will be announced on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. The countdown of the list of North America’s 50 Best Bars and the awards ceremony will also be broadcast to a global audience who are not able to attend in person, and bar and cocktail lovers will be invited to join through The World’s 50 Best Bars Facebook page and 50 Best Bars TV channel on YouTube.