Cooling down the hot summer night with refreshing cocktail
Text: Keiko Nakamura / Photo: Takashi Oka
There is a newly renovated building along the street of Yamato-Oji Dori in Gion. Kisshu Ikusei is at the far end of the ground floor. Hiroaki Oda, the owner, named it 'Kisshu' instead of 'bar' to express the zen word 'kissako', meaning to have a relaxing tea. He opened Ikusei in 2014 at the age of 30. Hiroaki had worked at cafe bar until then, and his speciality is with herb liqueur. There is only about a dozen of bar in Japan that specialize in this field.
He has collected around 100 bottles of herb liqueurs from Europe, mainly from France and Italy. In addition to this, he makes cocktail from fresh herb that is produced at the base of Hieizan Mountain. Hieizan is a rich herb farming area that has both the character of northern and southern herbs. There are plantation managed by pharmaceutical company, too. He fell in love with herb liqueur since he was 20. He had some to know a herb plantation owner in Hieizan through a customer of Ikusei and was able to borrow the farm that grew more than 200 species. 'The fun part of making a cocktail is that I can make so many different kinds using flower, fruit, leaf, culm and root. For instance, yuzu is a common citrus fruit that is used for cocktail, but the leaf is also aromatic. It smells different but both nice' he explains.
There is no menu here, instead, you tell Hiroyuki your mood and requests. I asked for summer's refreshing cocktail and got 'Yamamomo no cosmopolitan', a bayberry version of cosmopolitan. Bayberries are frozen fresh from the farm. 'By pouring vodka on to frozen fruits, the cell sparkles to burst out aroma.' After crushing the fruits, lime juice is added to be shaken to make a lovely pink cocktail. Contrarily to the sweet impression, cocktail itself is vodka base and is rather dry and strong, refreshing still, with the taste of bayberry and lime. 'Hawasabi no gin & tonic' (wasabi leave gin & tonic) and 'Suika no salty dog' (watermelon salty dog) is also recommendable for Kyoto's steaming summer.
There is also a good amount of whiskey and wine, plus a good deep roasted & hand-dripped coffee. They open early at 16:00, so you can drop by to enjoy coffee, or to have cold iced coffee as whiskey chaser. 'Western alcohol used to be a luxury item before, but not anymore. I set the price range hoping that working generation can come about twice a week.'
ADDRESS: Motoyoshi-cho Building 1F, Yamato Oji Dori Shinbashi Agaru Motoyoshi-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto (map)
CLOSED: Sunday, closed during June 27-July 7