Bartender International

Julia Momose, Kumiko Bar, Chicago

Anyone who travels to Chicago and visits the excellent cocktail bars, which by the way do not have to hide from New York in any way, will notice that sooner or later the name Julia Momose comes up. Julia has long been a known quantity in the bar world and is known far beyond Chicago. With Kumiko, she has fulfilled her dream of owning her own bar.

Julia was born and raised in Japan. She was exposed to the hospitality industry when she was young and worked part-time in a bagel shop and a restaurant that also had a small bar. After graduating from school, she moved to the US to attend Cornell University.

While studying interior architecture and design, she worked for Cornell Catering and various other restaurants and bars. Finally, she decided not to continue her design studies and instead to focus entirely on the hospitality industry, especially bartending.

On a visit to Japan, she went to a bar in Kobe where she met a Barkeeper who was very meticulous about his ice cream. He hand-carved perfect ice balls for even the simplest highballs. This inspired Julia a lot, because Japanese bartending is very different from American or European bartending.

Kumiko Bar, Chicago

Attention to detail is key: ingredients, tools, the way the Barkeeper moves, the philosophy of bartending, the level of hospitality - all form a unity and merge into a well-rounded experience that is unparalleled in this world.

After returning to the United States, Julia moved to Baltimore. There she spent two years working not only in bars but also in kitchens to gain more experience in the field. One of the bars she was at home in Baltimore, Rye Craft Cocktails, opened a second venue called Willow and she was given the opportunity to develop its bar programme.

Soon, however, it was time for her to move on again. A conversation with a guest led her to apply for an internship at The Aviary, an internationally recognised bar in Chicago. The Aviary was one of the first bars to take what Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal and Grant Achatz, the owner of The Aviary, practiced in the world of fine dining and apply it to the cocktail scene.

Achatz, an American pioneer of progressive cuisine and champion of innovative dining, also runs several restaurants in Chicago. Between all the smoke and liquid nitrogen, it was The Office - the Aviary's speakeasy bar specialising in cocktails and rare spirits - that attracted Julia. It was the bar she could imagine working behind.

After two years of working for Achatz, Julia got a call from Jack McGarry, the owner of the Dead Rabbit in New York. It was about a new project called GreenRiver. She accepted and worked there from 2015 to 2017.

In November 2017, Julia married Barkeeper and photographer Sammy Faze and took this as an opportunity to explore her roots. They celebrated their wedding with only ten guests in Japan. Afterwards, she started spending a lot of time there.

In particular, she undertook a very insightful trip with the Shiga Prefectural Government and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) to explore the Omi tea-growing region in Shiga (near Kyoto).

Seeing her recent projects in the region deeply inspired Julia and she felt it was time to combine all these experiences and start her own bar. And so Kumiko was born.

Kumiko Bar

The influence of Julia's roots runs deep through Kumiko's heart. While she is aware that a Japanese bar outside of Japan will never be a Japanese bar per se, the core values she wants to share and develop with the team all revolve around Japanese principles and practices.

The team consists of about twenty people, divided between the service and kitchen staff. There are eight seats at the bar and twenty-two seats at various tables. Both food and drinks are served, with an emphasis on the combined enjoyment of both.

It is a school, a playground and a home for the creative minds who work here. Julia shares with her team everything she has learned in her life about good communication, hospitality and mixing drinks.

With all the bars Julia has visited and worked in over the course of her career, one thing in particular stands out for her about Japanese bars: the feeling that you are completely and perfectly taken care of there.

"The influence of Julia's roots runs deep through the heart of Kumiko."

The Barkeeper 's attentiveness to their work behind the bar and their ability to stage each moment without being intrusive is an art form as exquisite as the precision with which they handle spirits, jiggers, glasses and ice.

The name Kumiko derives from a Japanese technique used by master woodworkers to create patterns with intricately cut pieces of wood. The mastery of this technique is a testament to true craftsmanship, attention to detail and dedication.

This bar is therefore a tribute to craftsmen all over the world.


For Julia, it's all about a taste or flavour when she is inspired to create something new. She chooses a flavour as a starting point and then works with and around it.

It is not so much a spiritual process, but more a taste- and colour-oriented one. Julia's knowledge of the culinary world also feeds into this process. She also thinks about what kind of people she is creating a drink for.

Favourite bar

Julia's favourite bar is Billy Sunday in Chicago.

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