What do you like to drink after a shift? “A Scotch and a beer.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “The Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini and Earl Grey MarTEAni. I had both of them at Pegu Club.”
What book on cocktails, spirits or food is your go-to resource? “The Flavor Bible. It’s a book that describes how ingredients can be combined to create great flavor. I like to use it as a resource when I’m working on new cocktails.”
Name the toughest cocktail that was the hardest one for you to master? “For me, the Bloody Mary has been the toughest to master. That’s mostly because it’s one of my favorite cocktails to drink, so I am particular about the taste and balance being just right.”
Ever appropriate to make a Vodka Martini? “Yes, but only if it’s a good one!”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “The Bamboo cocktail and charcuterie. And a Manhattan and chocolate.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “The Umami Mary I serve at Bar Goto. This is not a typical Bloody Mary. To me it is the ultimate Japanese Bloody Mary. It incorporates Japanese ingredients (shitake and dashi) into a drink that usually has a different flavor profile.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Tecate and Fortaleza Blanco Tequila.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A set of measuring spoons. I often create my recipes using teaspoons in addition to ounces. This allows me to be more precise and to get even closer to the flavor I’m looking for.”
Kenta Goto is the owner of New York’s Bar Goto and was named American Bartender of the Year at the 2011 Tales of the Cocktails conference.
Interview has been condensed and edited.