Raising The Bar: Alicia Yamachika

If you’ve ever saddled up to the bar at Honolulu hotspot Nobu, located in Waikiki Parc Hotel, there’s a good chance you’ve been served by Alicia Yamachika. Bartending for 11 years now, Alicia has had a hand in many Oahu favorites including The Pig & The Lady, Livestock Tavern, Uncle Bo’s and Pint + Jigger. I was intrigued by this cocktail artist, so when I got the opportunity to learn more, I jumped!

What led you to bartending?

I was working my way through college as a waitress at Shore Bird (Restaurant & Beach Bar) and The Red Lion simultaneously, when the manager at The Red Lion decided to give me a chance behind the bar.

However, the story really begins when I first met Dave Newman, owner/operator of Pint + Jigger. Dave was the bar manager at Nobu Waikiki at the time and he, along with the rest of the Nobu staff, would visit me where I was slinging drinks at Moose McGillycuddy’s. One night a year later, when I was serving up watered-down girly drinks at a local strip club, one of the six jobs I held at the time just trying to make ends meet after purchasing my first apartment, Dave showed up like a knight on a white horse and rescued me! He offered me a job bartending for him at Nobu. That was my first introduction to the world of craft cocktails.

After two years of mentorship under Dave at Nobu, he opened up Pint + Jigger and that’s where my life really began to change. It was incredibly challenging, the level of knowledge and creativity expected not just by Dave, but by the guests at Pint + Jigger, and by my coworkers. I spent at least an hour every day before work studying.

With such an impressive history of craft bartending, how do you stay inspired?

I think that’s one thing a lot of people forget the deeper we delve into this revival of craft culture: It’s really about the guest experience. So many craft bartenders, myself included, love to geek out on the knowledge side. But it doesn’t always translate across the wood. Being able to read your guest and customize their experience is the real talent.

What’s your favorite drink to make?

It really depends on the guest. I’ve got a book full of original recipes each inspired by an individual guest in order to create a unique experience. I’ve even named cocktails after regulars! Sours always have the most beautiful presentation. I’m working on one now that uses Alipus San Luis Mezcal, raspberries and rose flower water, and it’s garnished with edible Turkish roses. As for the classics? Nothing beats a properly presented Negroni on the rocks. Something about the way that bitter-spirited liquid pours like scarlet honey over a large format ice cube just gives me goosebumps every time.