Saxon + Parole was just named “Best American Cocktail Bar” Spirited Award at Tales of the Cocktail 2016 and their head bartender, Masahiro Urushido, is a big reason for that. Since his first gig at Tokyo hotspot Tableaux, Masa has been gaining notoriety and skill for being as creative as he is precise with his cocktails.
Although he has won many awards and accolades in his career, his friendly demeanor is perfectly summarized by his charm and infectious smile. A New Yorker since 2008, Masa is beloved in the industry and he always mesmerizes us with his ice skills.
So without further ado, let’s go drinking with Saxon + Parole’s Masahiro Urushido.
Drinking With Masahiro Urushido
State your name & profession for the record.
Masahiro Urushido, bartender
You came here from Japan where drinking culture & tradition are very serious. Were you always interested in drinks?
I’m originally from small town in Nagano where they produce great sake and beer. So I’ve always interested in food and cooking.
What was the gateway drink that made you say this is a cocktail and inspired you to take it all seriously?
The Manhattan ‘On Tap’ with Parole whiskey, sweet vermouth, john’s leather bitters created by Naren Young at Saxon+Parole. My current drink order is all kinds of sour beers.
I work in the city and usually don’t go out much after work except for accidental late night meetings. Living in Brooklyn, I love oysters, beer and cocktails at Grand Army, nice live music on Sunday evening at Henry Public, and great drinks at The Long Island Bar.
Coffee or tea?
I love this soba (Japanese buckwheat) tea from my hometown in Nagano. It’s so clean and slightly toasty. I get 1 or 2 iced coffee a day from Think Coffee across the street from our restaurant.
How did you get started in the biz? What was your first bar gig?
I started working as a food runner in a fine dining restaurant in Tokyo when I was 19. Before that, I was delivering pizza and worked at some karaoke bars and it was a big stretch to jump into that new environment. I had never seen a bottled sparkling mineral water until then! After six months running food, I had an opportunity to get behind the bar start learning classic cocktails.
Where do you take out-of-towners for cocktails for an only in NY experience?
PDT, Dead Rabbit, Cafe Dante, Attaboy, Employees Only, The Daily and so many others. I can’t list them all or it would take up too much space.
Any recent cocktails or menus in NYC that are blowing your mind right now?
Garibaldi at Cafe Dante and Horse Apple at Suffolk Arms. I love super cold Pabst and sunflower seeds on the beach in the summer and whisk(e)y for every season!
What is the most popular cocktail on your menu now?
Celery Gimlet and Manhattan ‘On Tap’ are the staple and top seller of all time at Saxon+Parole. Also we are making lots of Watermelon Spritz this summer. It’s a classic Aperol Spritz with freshly pressed watermelon juice, cucumber shrub and touch of rose salt.
What is your hangover remedy?
Chugging a big glass of water before go to bed. And leftover fried rice from Noodle Town and Diet Coke for breakfast.
You are known for your incredible ice skills, how long do you have to train / practice to master that art?
I don’t think I’m that good, but thank you. Like many other bartenders in Japan, I used to make hundreds of ice balls every week before and beginning of the service as a bartender apprentice. Today we mostly use three prong ice picks, but I started learning and using single prong ice pick which needs more samurai-ninja precision.
Who is the best drinking buddy for a wild night out?
Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez and Jamie J Gordon. You can find them both at The Daily on Friday nights. And Mother’s Ruin – waffle fries, fully-dressed Tecate, and Scottie. Dangerous!
Special shout to any NYC bartenders or drinks makers out there that you do your best to visit and you think deserve some special love?
One and only our Richard Berman at Saxon+Parole. His jokes are too funny so he is the always the one start laughing! The legend.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
Being part of this team for past five years. (**Editors Note: Saxon & Parole won Best Restaurant Bar at Tales of the Cocktail this summer.)
Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to or people to thank?
I met restaurateur Yoshihiro Shinkawa when I was 19, and he is the reason why I love working in restaurant/bar so much today. Paul Franich for looking after me and when I arrived in New York. Naren Young is my forever sensei and him and Linden Pride opened my eyes as a bartender. Maximilian Warner of Chivas Regal for showing me the world and giving me so many inspirations for past few years.
Any advice for aspiring young guns wanting to break into the industry?
Let’s enjoy keep making people happy.
Spill it: shameless plug of what are you working on right now?
Trying to cook every dish from (Yotam Ottolenghi’s) Jerusalem Cookbook and going to the gym more often. And autumn cocktails with scotch and apples.
Connect With Masa Urushido Socially
Saxon & Parole Details316 Bowery, New York, NY 10012
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