Event Report: 3rd PBO Cocktail & Bar Festa 2017

August 27th was the 3rd PBO Cocktail & Bar Festa 2017, held at Courtyard Marriott Ginza Tobu Hotel. “Bartending Experience” was the theme of this year’s event, so in addition to the standard lineup of vendor booths, PBO had an entire section of the venue devoted to allowing attendees to try various bartending techniques for themselves.

PBO is Japan’s “Professional Bartender’s Organization,” but I’m still not clear on how’s it different from the Nippon Bartenders Association (NBA). In any case the PBO, established in 2002, is a non-profit with a mission to assist in the development and growth of professional bartenders through education and training of cocktail creation and techniques.

The PBO Cocktail & Bar Festa 2017 is the 3rd time this event was held, but the first time I’ve attended. And now I’m kicking myself for not having gone in years past. It was a lot of fun!

Since the event was split into three different zones (Experience of Bartending Zone, World’s Liquor Selection Zone, Worldwide Competition Zone), I’ll structure this event report in the same way. Let’s dive in! Click through below to move to the next page.

[nextpage title=”Experience of Bartending Zone”]In this zone, attendees could experience what it’s like to a shake a shaker, build a cocktail, flair, try a venencia pour, and lots else! Certainly a unique opportunity for those who haven’t done any of these things before. PBO members staffed at each booth to provide advice and hands-on advice.

Building booth
Trying out flair!
This is the shaker booth, by far the most popular
Venencia pour
[nextpage title=”World’s Liquor Selection Zone”]Being able to sample as much liquor as you like is the bread and butter of events like this. There were 23 booths serving liquor, cocktails, or both, so let’s have a look. And a drink!

First up is the Whisk-e Ltd. booth. Whisk-e Ltd. owns the Kyoto Distillery, known worldwide for the Ki No Bi gin. They had two cocktails available: one with green tea, and one with umeboshi (pickled plum). I was pretty surprised at the simplicity here, but I imagine Kyoto Distillery wants to highlight how well Ki No Bi pairs with other Japanese ingredients.

Whisk-e booth had two cocktails using Ki No Bi available
Ki No Bi booth cocktail menu
Ki No Bi Tea Martini

While we’re discussing Japanese gin, of course Suntory had their Roku gin prominent at the Suntory booth. As you know this has been selling really really well.

Suntory Roku gin
Suntory Roku gin

Moving along to the MHD booth, they had a selection of their single malts as well as two Hennessy cocktails available. We’ll see a lot more from MHD at next week’s GMT2017, so stay tuned.

MHD booth

Moving on to the Japan Import System booth. JIS has license to import from the likes to Benromach, Gordon & MacPhail, Douglas Laing, and plenty others. One of the highlights of the booth was Jinx Old Tom Gin, being served in a Tom Collins.

Japan Import System booth
Jinx Old Tom Gin

Two items to highlight over at the Musashiya booth are the Lustau Vermut and Wisent Vodka. Lustau is obviously a powerhouse in the world of Sherry, so when they make a vermouth, it’s worth paying attention.

Lustau Vermut
Wisent Vodka

Choya Umeshu is the world’s largest producer of umeshu (plum liquor), but it looks like the company is trying to branch out a bit. They had the company’s Antarctica cognac (aged 7 years but looks white) and one called Gastronome which it seems helps digestion.

The Antarctica, pictured left, is supposed to be served straight from the freezer! Yet it’s a cognac. Interesting.
Looks like Choya has also started importing some ciders

Another booth at the PBO Festa was the booth of ePower, who wasn’t at this year’s BarShow. The company’s main brands are Pusser’s British Navy Rum, Silver Seal Whisky & Rum, Burleighs London Dry Gin, and Ron Millonario. It looks like they’re into bottling as well, so probably a company to keep an eye on going forward.

Burleigh’s London Dry Gin. The Signature gin was super duper smooth, maybe even a bit too smooth for me.
Portobello Road No. 171 gin
Ron Millonario Solera 15y
Dover Ltd. had some of the rarer Grand Marniers available, such as the Grand Marnier Centenaire.


The Pernod Ricard booth had the Japan-only Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Edo Windchime edition

In the same room, the awards ceremony for the PBO Cocktail Collection vol.3 contest was held. This year’s base was… champagne! The winner was Yoshiaki Takahashi of Bar Takahashi with his “Angel Whisper,” a blend of plum liqueur, amaretto, passion fruit syrup, and lemon juice, topped off with Gruet Brut Selection.

Contestant lineup
From left to right:
-2nd place: Shuichi Imamura
-Chairman of the Professional Bartender’s Organization, Satoshi Kitamura
-1st place: Yoshiaki Takahashi
-3rd place: Hiroyuki Takeuchi

That covers the World Liquor Zone. Now it’s time to meet some of the Japanese bartenders that compete at the international level in the Worldwide Competition Zone![nextpage title=”Worldwide Competition Zone”]This was a really cool feature of the event. Each booth represented one of the world’s major cocktail competitions, at the winners/Japan reps were on hand to make their winning cocktails:

  • Diageo World Class
  • Bols Around the World
  • Jose Cuervo Dons of Tequila
  • Ron Zacapa Cocktail Competition
  • Hennessy XO Cocktail Competition
  • Monin Cup Japan
  • Bacardi Legacy
  • Beam Suntory The Cocktail Award
  • PBO Cocktail Competition

First up is Diageo World Class.

Diageo World Class booth
The winning cocktail
Bols Around the World booth
Masaki Ishimura was the Japan representative for the 2017 Bols Around the World competition
Koji Esashi, named the 2015 Don of Tequila by Jose Cuervo. He won the global title the first time the contest was held 
That black labeled bottle of Cuervo is one of the prizes for winning the competition, the winner gets his/her own batch of Cuervo made
Notoka Shigenari, winner of the 2014 Ron Zacapa Cocktail Competition
The winning cocktail, elegante
Bacardi Legacy booth, this is Kentaro Sato. We saw him at the BarShow earlier this year. 
This winning cocktail from Japan
Suntory The Cocktail Award booth
The winning recipe by Tomohiro Matsushita
Tomohiro Matsushita himself
The PBO Bartenders Competition 2017 winning cocktail by Toshinori Imada
Toshinori Imada at work

That concludes the event report! And I didn’t even make it to any of the seminars. Next year I’ll be sure to make a full day of it.


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