Masa Urushido has one of those smiles that lights up a room. It’s the very definition of a grin––big and playful and infectious.
The same could be said of his drink stylings and the vibe at his NYC cocktail den, Katana Kitten, where you’ll find some of New York’s most entertaining drinks. Even if you’ve been in this industry for 20 years, you’re going to encounter something you’ve not tried yet.
Masa isn’t afraid of making you smile either. Where some lean into the serious side of the craft, he’s got a penchant for visual fun and outlandish flavors, all carefully restrained into a great, balanced drink.
Katana Kitten introduces the drinker to the flavors of Tokyo and beyond, with touches that equally make one feel transported to the coolest bars of Ginza or Shinjuku, with underground vibes. Katana boasts plenty of neon and Japanese movie posters from three decades past.
According to Masa, his intrigue towards hospitality started with a serendipitous introduction to who would be his first mentors. “It was totally by luck, I just walked in for an interview at an amazing restaurant where I met my first mentors. And thanks to them, I’m still enjoying working in restaurants and bars today.”
Masa got his earliest start in Tokyo. He cut his teeth as a food runner at a place called Tableaux, before moving to fine dining under Hiro Shinkawa. But, it was during his seven-year stint at Saxon & Parole on the Bowery when New York fell in love with him and his drink prowess.
In 2013, Urushido joined his Saxon team for a trip to Tales of the Cocktail, and they picked up a little claim-to-fame there that year––a Spirited Award for “World’s Best Restaurant Bar.”
“I’ve been there each year after that,” he says. “I really like Tales of the Cocktail, and I miss it.”
When pressed about the city’s must-haves during July, he’d point you to sampling steamed crawfish or, “a late-night at Pat O’Brien’s. I get to work some amazing events,” he says, “with amazing brands, and get to see so many amazing friends. It’s a precious time to celebrate friendship through our profession.”
When asked about Tales programming for the generation of bartenders just getting into the industry right now, he stated enthusiastically, “While there are so many resources available to learn about drink making online or from books, Tales of the Cocktail is an amazing place to feel and get inspired about bartending in-person, even if the events are virtual.”
As to mentors, Urushido counts his friend Naren Young among the top, citing former days at Saxon & Parole, where they worked together on shifts and on menu creations, and as to a fantastic mixer? Q Mixers is a ready and able compatriot to any bar shift.
His drink for Meet At Tales combines his passions––exotic flavors and good friendships. He uses Myris Nutmeg liqueur, a product recently created by buddy and industry legend, Jim Ryan. Ryan sourced 14,000 pounds of nutmeg that would have gone to waste, harnessing three botanicals from a single tree to create the liqueur. It’s aptly used in this highball, with Q Elderflower Tonic adding that wondrous level of floral sweetness with stunning, intense bubbles.
If you have the opportunity to stop into Katana Kitten or are chosen to speak to Masa for a one-on-one meeting during Tales, ask him about his family and watch that 900-gigawatt smile erupt. It’s his favorite subject, understandably. Then, ask him to make you something. Anything. He’s a master, and you’re better off drinking cocktails in his capable hands.
Q Mixers and Tales of the Cocktail Foundation present, Meet at Tales––a program going behind-the-scenes with eight industry leaders, delving into their best times at Tales of the Cocktail®––raising a virtual toast to the people, places and drinks that have shaped their careers.
After several challenging years, Meet at Tales is a chance for our Industry Leaders to give advice and mentorship to those rising up. Six lucky Tales of the Cocktail 2021 registrants will be selected to Meet at Tales for a 15-minute conversation and will receive a custom cocktail kit developed by the Q MIXERS Industry Leader they are paired with. Following Tales, each Industry Leader will select one individual for a one-hour follow-up conversation.
We could think of no better partnership for this project than Q Mixers––a brand whose entire mission is to make truly spectacular mixers. Additionally, during this year’s conference taking place in a hybrid format September 20-23, Q Mixers will host 4 Mix at Tales Happy Hour events ––each of which pair up 2 industry leaders to host a happy hour to field fun and pertinent questions, brainstorm, and have a few drinks of course.
Already registered? Add Masa’s Mix at Tales Happy Hour event to your Tales of the Cocktail 2021 agenda taking place digitally on September 23rd at 1:00 PM CST.