Improved Japanese Cocktail

Improved Japanese Cocktail. © Le Lion - Swetlana Holz.

The Improved Japanese Cocktail developed by Mario Kappes shows how skilful changes to old classics can be used to create new cocktails of equally compelling character.

70 ml Nikka Coffey Malt whiskey
5 ml Meneau orgeat
1 Dash Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters

Preparation: Stirred. Serve in a tumbler with a large piece of ice.

This cocktail was created about one and a half years ago, in the summer of 2016, when Mario Kappes was thinking about signature drinks for Nikka. [1] His Improved Japanese Cocktail refers to the Japanese Cocktail, which was already described by Jerry Thomas in 1862:

Japanese Cocktail. Jerry Thomas, 1862.

1 table-spoonful of orgeat syrup.
1/2 teaspoonful of Bogart’s bitters.
1 wine-glass of brandy.
1 or 2 pieces of lemon peel.
Fill the tumbler one-third with ice, and stir well with
a spoon.

Bogart’s Bitters means Boker’s Bitters. [5] Converted to modern standards, this recipe uses 60 ml brandy, 7.5 ml orgeat and 1.25 ml, or about 1 dash, bitters. But we don’t want to write more about the Japanese cocktail here, because that will probably be a separate post.

Originally, Mario’s variation was called “New Japanese Cocktail”, but it has since been renamed “Improved Japanese Cocktail”. [2] Mario not only changed the base spirit, but also reduced the sweetness of the drink somewhat, without moving too far away from the original proportions. He also dispensed with the lemon zest.

Improved Japanese Cocktail. © Le Lion - Swetlana Holz.
Improved Japanese Cocktail. © Le Lion – Swetlana Holz.

We first enjoyed the cocktail at Le Lion in Hamburg, made with Nikka from the Barrel. Shortly afterwards, we also had it at the gala event for the Mixology Bar Awards in October 2017, made with Nikka Coffey Malt. We chose the Coffey Malt as the base spirit, but it also makes an excellent drink with Nikka from the Barrel.

The recipe calls for Aromatic Bitters, we use the Orinoco Bitters as they were the most coherent for us.

The Japanese Cocktail is often listed in old cocktail books. Interestingly, however, a variant with whiskey is missing, at least we haven’t found one yet. This is surprising, because the result is very convincing, and so we are surprised that this twist has not been thought up before.

However, during our research we noticed that there is an exception. Not only Mario Kappes invented a variation of the Japanese Cocktail, but also another bartender a few years earlier, whose name we do not know. We found this information in a publication from 2013. There, too, an Improved Japanese Cocktail is presented, which refers to the Japanese Cocktail and is also prepared with Japanese whiskey. However, this variant uses more orgeat and bitters. [4] Mario was not aware of this before our research. [1]

So you can see from this cocktail that comparable cocktails are developed in parallel independently of each other. Well, good things are occasionally developed in different places independently and in unawareness of each other. But that does not diminish the achievement of the two creators. In any case, we found it very interesting that for about 150 years no one seems to have come up with the idea of replacing the brandy in the Japanese Cocktail with whiskey, and when this finally happens, it occurs several times, and the drink also gets the same name.

We, for one, prefer Mario’s version, because it is less sweet and very close to an old-fashioned cocktail.

  1. Shared by Mario Kappes on 13. January 2018
  2. Shared by Mario Kappes on 7. October 2017
  3. http://barnotes.co/recipes/improved-japanese-cocktail: Improved Japanese Cocktail.
  4. https://umamimart.com/blogs/main/happy-hour-the-improved-japanese-cocktail: Happy Hour: The Improved Japanese Cocktail. By Fredo Ceraso, 15. Marcg 2013.
  5. David Wondrich: Imbibe! 2. edition, ISBN 978-0-399-17261-8. New York 2015. Page 296.


2017 Mario Kappes. Improved Japanese Cocktail. 6 bis 7 cl Nikka Coffey Malt, 0,5 cl Orgeat, 1 Dash Aromatic Bitters. Gerührt. [2]

2013 https://umamimart.com/blogs/main/happy-hour-the-improved-japanese-cocktail. Improved Japanese Cocktail. 2,5 oz Yamazaki Single Malt 12 Year Old whisky; 0,5 oz orgeat syrup; 2-3 dashes of Jerry Thomas’ own Decanter Bitters by Bitter Truth;
Lemon peel.

???? http://barnotes.co/recipes/improved-japanese-cocktail. Improved Japanese Cocktail. 0,75oz Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky; 0,75oz Orgeat; 0,75oz Nigori Sake; 0,25oz Horseradish infused Benedictine; 0,5 oz Lime; 1 dash ango.

2018 Mixology 3/2018, Seite 83. Improved Japanese Cocktail (Mario Kappes). 5 cl Nikka Coffey Malt; 2,5 cl Orgeat; 2 cl Angostura Bitters; Alle Zutaten mit Eis in den Shaker geben und kaltschütteln. Doppelt in die Coupette abseihen. Anmerkung: Hier muß sich ein Fehler eingeschlichen haben. Statt 2 cl Angostura Bitters soll es sicherlich 2 Dash Angostura Bitters heißen.

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Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.