Charles Schumann.

Charles Schumann.
© Thomas Schauer/Zwiesel Kristallgals AG

Cocktails in the monastery: Charles Schumann's month-long visit to Japan

Cocktail bar

It's a "guest shift", as unusual as it is fitting for a bar legend: Charles Schumann moves from Munich's Hofgarten to a Zen temple in Kyoto. We have the details of the 82-year-old Japan fan's guest appearance.

Charles Schumann has been in Tokyo twice recently. In the "Flying Bumblebee" bar dedicated to classic drinks, the Munich native himself stood ready with a shaker - a sight practically never seen in the Hofgarten - at a Sunday movie soirée. The documentary "Schumann's Bar Conversations" was shown, which also contains a detailed section on Tokyo. But this time the Japanese capital is just the prelude. From March 1 to 30, the founder of Schumann's Bar will be making an unusual guest appearance in the old imperial city of Kyoto.

The location is Kanga-an, a temple of Ōbaku-shū, one of the schools of Zen Buddhism. In addition to contemplation and the recitation of mantras, the monks also run a restaurant there, whose (exclusively vegetarian) cuisine is one of Kyoto's insider tips. But even Japan expert Charles Schumann was surprised "that there is also a bar in the monastery". But while an international selection of whiskies is the main attraction alongside beer and sake, this March guests can enjoy creations from Munich's "Les fleurs du Mal" near Kuramaguchi subway station.

Back in a land of longing

"I have to prepare myself," Schumann said weeks ago, honing his drinks for this long guest appearance. The remark once again demonstrates the work ethic of the bar legend, which in Kyoto is by no means basking in the glory. Instead, he prefers to present his cocktail aesthetics in daily mixing. True to the well-known Schumann dictum that a drink is perfect "when you can't leave anything out".

His love of Japan, the 82-year-old's second favourite country after France, has been legendary for decades anyway. It goes back to collaborations with designer Yōji Yamamoto as well as an early passion for sake in cocktails ("It's not enough to use sake instead of the base spirits"). Even when it comes to cocktail glasses, Schumann prefers "the delicate Japanese ones, not thick-walled tumblers". He has been perfecting the language in weekly conversation lessons for years anyway.

Der »Kanga-an«-Tempel in Kyoto. Foto beigestellt
Der »Kanga-an«-Tempel in Kyoto. Foto beigestellt
Der »Kanga-an«-Tempel in Kyoto. Foto beigestellt

Green tea with local all-star team

It was therefore a logical step to develop their own product line called "Schumann's House", which was developed in Japan a few years ago. His confidante Maria Cobo is responsible for these hand-picked products, which include roasted green tea ("Bo Houchjicha") and the famous Sencha from the island of Yakushima. In Munich's Schumann's Tagesbar, it has long been as popular as the city's famous espresso. Together with gin, sake and honey, however, it also becomes the "Energy" highball, lengthened with soda, which could be part of the cocktail menu in Kyoto. The exact bar menu was left open until the very end.

In addition to Schumann himself, the drinks are prepared by Japanese bar colleagues such as Kousei Sai (from the "Mimosa Pudica" in Kobe) or Campari brand ambassador Naoto Ogawa. Mixing takes place from 4.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the five-person team deliberately consisting of Japanese colleagues. "You can only do that with people on the ground," says Charles Schumann, who is not interested in the show effect. But rather to pay tribute to a formative influence on his style in his home country. With one of Schumann's favou2rite Japanese expressions, we can therefore wish the temple bar こちらへどうぞ(kochira e dōzo): "Be kind to me!"

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Roland Graf
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