Japanese-Focused Bar Goto Pushes Cocktail Boundaries In New York City

A Pegu Club veteran incorporates traditional Japanese flavors into classic cocktail recipes.

Bar Goto offers unique takes on well-known drinks in an upscale setting.
Bar Goto offers unique takes on well-known drinks in an upscale setting. (Photo by Gabi Porter)

Aiming to honor his Japanese heritage while presenting sophisticated cocktails, Pegu Club alumnus Kenta Goto opened Bar Goto in New York City’s Lower East Side on July 28th. The stylish drinks den features an East-meets-West approach, with classic cocktail recipes reformatted to incorporate Japanese ingredients and a menu of upscale Japanese bar snacks. Bar Goto’s nine signature cocktails ($15) include the Tom Collins–like Yuzu-Calpico Fizz, made with Beefeater gin, yuzu preserve, lemon, soda and the Japanese soft drink Calpico, and the Matcha Milk Punch, which comprises Absolut vodka, matcha and sencha green teas, and half and half. The venue’s Improved Shochu Cocktail is made with Mizu no Mai shochu, Berkshire Mountain Barrel-Aged Ethereal gin and Kiuchi no Shizuku hop liqueur and served in a cypress box, a traditional vessel for serving sake. Bar Goto also offers a selection of wines ($12 to $18 a glass; $60 to $300 a 750-ml. bottle), sakes ($11 to $13 a glass; $66 to $78 a 720-ml. bottle) and Japanese beers ($8 to $13 a bottle), along with Japanese whiskies like Chichibu On The Way ($18 a 1-ounce pour). Chef Kiyo Shinoki of Manhattan restaurant Bohemian designed the menu of comfort food inspired by Japan’s traditional izakaya pubs, offering such snacks as miso chicken wings, octopus sashimi and burdock root fries ($6 to $13). A selection of savory cabbage pancakes called okonomi-yaki are served with a signature sauce, Kewpie mayo, shaved dried bonito and pickled red ginger. Bar Goto’s design includes an L-shaped bar, banquette seating and two standing bars. In addition to his mixology prowess, Goto is a master of Japanese calligraphy and designed the venue’s logo.