The Peninsula Manila Mixology Class Series opens with Japan’s top mixologist and The Peninsula Tokyo’s Beverage Manager Mari Kamata for a mixology class held at the chic Salon de Ning bar-lounge. A multi-awarded international mixologist and a firm believer that “drinking should involve all five senses,” her creations have been known to be innovative, balanced, and lovely to look at.

It wasn’t an easy road for Mari to reach the top of the bartending field. When she started 20 years ago, bartending in Japan was a male-dominated industry (although the tide is shifting now). She had a hard time getting anyone to take her seriously. “Guests didn’t want to drink my cocktails, because I’m a female bartender,” she shares. “That’s why I wanted to win cocktail competitions. I won in Japan four times. Then the guests wanted to try my cocktails. And now, I am asked to judge the cocktails competitions.”

Award-winning mixologist and The Peninsula Tokyo’s Beverage Manager Mari Kamata

She is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the 2009 Diageo World Class Cocktail Competition in London and 2013’s Gin Connoisseur Program in France, a spot as a finalist at the 007 Belvedere Challenge 2015 in Sydney, and the top prize in 2016’s Seven Star Train Cocktail Recipe Competition. She is the embodiment of the famous Picasso saying, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” She is knowledgeable in the classic cocktails, and is skilled in introducing ingenious twists that take the drink to another level.

Mari likes to work with gin. “I love the strong character: the fruit, vegetables, herbs,” she commented. Among the emerging Japanese gin brands, she recommends Nikka Coffey Gin. With her formidable skills behind the bar, it’s surprising to hear that Mari doesn’t drink. She’s allergic to alcohol, so she has to abstain (apart from tasting what she makes, of course). She gets her ideas everywhere and her playful brain runs all day. She has a new idea brewing, where she wants to infuse and flavor an egg with pine needles and grass, which would be an ingredient in a summer cocktail.

Her favorite bar tool, her Japanese knife, was given to her by one of her mentors, Yoko Ariga. She has had it for 10 years and has sharpened and filed it to become a versatile cutting tool.

Featuring cocktails using premium Moët Hennessy brands, the mixology class allowed participants to sharpen cocktail-making their skills under the tutelage of Mari Kamata. The drinks chosen are creative twists to classics we are familiar with. First up was the Matcha Martini. Made with Belvedere Vodka, Monin Poir Syrup, syrup, and Matcha, served in a martini glass garnished with fresh bamboo leaf hand carried from Japan, this earthy delight is a tea lover’s dream. Making the matcha from scratch (matcha powder mixed with cold water) using a bamboo whisk and tea bowl allowed for a deeper tea flavor and aroma. The cocktail looks like a green smoothie, and is rich and creamy, with a slight bitter finish and that tannin aftertaste on the tongue.

Mari mixing matcha powder with water using bamboo whisk in tea bowl.

The Matcha Martini. This earthy delight is a tea lover’s dream.

The next featured cocktail is a twist on the classic Blood and Sand. It had Ardbeg 10 years, Cherry Heering, orange juice, and – in a show of her enthusiasm for innovation – Earl-Grey-tea-and-clove-infused vermouth Rosso. Finely crushed Earl Grey tea leaves and cloves were put in an AeroPress, where Vermouth Rosso was added and pressed to achieve the infusion. The result is an aromatic peaty cocktail with deep layers of flavor, and hints of clove. Perfect for seasoned drinkers who want something new.

Step one: Grind cloves and tea leaves.
Step 2: Add Vermouth.
Step 3: Press to infuse.

Blood and Sand. This aromatic peaty cocktail is perfect for seasoned drinkers who want something new.

The last cocktail on Mari’s list is the Hennessy Negroni. Swapping the usual gin for Hennessy VSOP, plus Campari and Cinzano Vermouth Rosso, garnished with orange slice, this take on the negroni is clear, full-bodied and smoky. She filled a decanter with smoke from a smoke gun (and even had someone demonstrate how to do it if a smoke gun is not available), poured all the ingredients and swirled the liquids together before serving. It certainly grabbed our attention. The spirit-forward cocktail was definitely enhanced by the smoking process.

What to do when you don’t have a smoke gun.
smoke inside a decanter

Hennessy Negroni. The smoking process definitely gave this spirit-forward cocktail some extra oomph.

As a bonus, she even whipped up one of her award-winning creations, Undercover Martini (Belvedere Vodka, Bols Cassis Liqueur, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, and simple syrup, garnished with fresh thyme). Inspired by the Bond Girl, this drink is what you would expect from the ultimate spy’s paramours: feminine, aggressive, and sexy.

Undercover Martini (Belvedere Vodka, Bols Cassis Liqueur, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, simple syrup, garnished with fresh thyme) is inspired by the Bond Girl.

It would be great to visit Japan, especially now that there is no visa required to enter the Land of the Rising Sun, and visit The Peninsula Tokyo to watch Mari in action and get a sip of her delectable cocktails. But you can still get the opportunity to taste Mari Kamata’s cocktail creations for The Peninsula Manila this week. Don’t miss the chance to taste epic twists to classic cocktails brought to you by one of Japan’s top bartenders.

Since it’s the festive season, The Peninsula Manila also offers alcoholic and non-alcoholic options to celebrate the holidays. The Mocktail of Hope (Welch grape juice, Coke regular, fresh pineapple, garnished with cinnamon stick, dehydrated lemon and lime), is a light, sweet, and juicy mocktail is great for those who want to have a refreshing drink after a day of merrymaking (or for the kids who are there to marvel at the beautiful Christmas tree with their folks). The Cocktail of Hope (Bailey’s. milk, mint liqueur, elderflower syrup, garnished with white chocolate spiral, mint leaf and gingerbread crumble) is a perfect holiday dessert drink. It smells and tastes like Christmas, sweet, milky, with a hint of mint and spiciness. The gingerbread crumble adds a nice crunch to this delectably creamy cocktail. An excellent choice when you can’t decide whether to have dessert or drinks, or whenever you want to get into the spirit of the season. Part of the proceeds raised from the Mocktail and Cocktail of Hope will benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation Philippines, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. These drinks are available until the end of the year.

The Mocktail of Hope (Welch grape juice, Coke regular, fresh pineapple, garnished with cinnamon stick, dehydrated lemon and lime), is a light, sweet, and juicy mocktail. Part of the proceeds raised from will benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation Philippines.
Cocktail of Hope

The Cocktail of Hope (Bailey’s. milk, mint liqueur, elderflower syrup, garnished with white chocolate spiral, mint leaf and gingerbread crumble) is a perfect holiday dessert drink. Part of the proceeds raised from will benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation Philippines.

Photos by Marvin de Guia

Chrysmas is your go-to gal for all things involving alcohol. She maneuvers her way through the Metro's traffic in her black boots and fishnet stockings, scouring places where one can indulge one's self in libations of all kinds. From Poblacion to Pasay, Malate to Makati, Tagaytay to Taguig. Ask her where to go to get your choice of poison and chances are she's already there holding a good stiff drink in one hand and a pen in the other.

Want more stuff like this?

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Sign Up For A Weekly Dose of DrinkManila

Don't worry we don't spam

Load More Related Articles
Load More In Brand News

Check Also

A Whole New World of Tea

The quintessential afternoon tea got its start just in the early 1800s, a period when dinn…