Interview: bartender Kenta Goto (Pegu Club)

Bartender New York City

Tokyo native Kenta Goto has become a cocktail authority in his adopted city. [Audrey Saunders for]


JL: Who are some other bartenders that you really admire, and how come?

KG: This is going to be more than one, but I’m a big fan of the guys who work at Employees Only and their sister place Macao Trading Co. They are very good at making sure that people have a good time. It’s always a happy vibe coming out of them, which is very important. Happy bartenders make a whole establishment look happy. Customers need that when they go out.

Also, he’s actually from Australia, we used to work together for one year at Pegu – Naren Young. Before Pegu we also used to work at a small joint in downtown Manhattan – barmache. Working with him at that time gave me a lot of eye opening experiences. What I learned from him and actually, and now what I make sure I do when train people, is make drinks and clean while making drinks. The moment you finish pouring drinks into glasses, don’t leave anything dirty behind.

JL: What was the last cocktail you developed, and what was your approach?

KG: I’m in charge of doing the menu at Pegu with my boss Audrey Saunders. I created about 20 cocktails for the menu here. Pegu Club is standard classic cocktails with a modern twist.

JL: What about the very last cocktail?

KG: The last one I did for this winter menu is a chai tea-infused Maker’s Mark with a touch of heavy cream and maple syrup. It’s called Bourbon Chai Punch.

JL: What’s a great simple cocktail recipe for people to make at home?

KG: Daiquiri. White rum, lime juice and syrup. It’s very easy to execute. It’s good to start with two ounces of rum, ¾ of lime juice and either ¾ or 1 ounce of simple syrup. All proportions should be adjusted based on personal preference, but that’s a good base to start with.

JL: What sort of rum do you prefer?

KG: I like Flor de Caña 4 year old, which we use at Pegu Club. We pretty much tasted all the white rums we have in house, and it hit the spot after comparing to all other rums.

JL: Where and what do you like to drink when you’re not at work?

KG: I usually go to Employees Only or Macao Trading Company. Normally I do something simple, pretty much Jameson’s neat or beer. Any beer is fine.

JL: If you could only fill your glass with one more cocktail, what would be in the glass?

KG: A well executed, well balanced gin martini with pickled vegetables.

JL: How come?

KG: Martinis are very simple, but at the same time, it may look very simple, but definitely bartenders’ experience and skills will show in a glass. You can tell by their execution, quality, the temperature. It’s a very simple drink but at the same time it takes your skills.

JL: Who would make it?

KG: I don’t mind making myself one, but would also like this Japanese guy – Hidetsugu Ueno – to make it. He has an establishment called High Five in Tokyo.

JL: Why him?

KG: I trust his skills and experiences and I want my martini to be perfect.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

[…] Kenta Goto spent seven years behind the wood bartop of Pegu club, equally honing his craft and applying it masterfully in the manufacture of the legend and mystique that surrounded Pegu. From house-made syrups to exquisite presentations, Goto dazzled us with everything he did under the Pegu banner. In 2015, however, he took it a step further and opened his own spot down on the LES: Bar Goto. […]

Loved every bit of your blog. Amazing.

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