Atlanta’s bustling bar scene is jam-packed with every type of watering hole one can imagine. From tiki bars to speakeasies to ritzy steakhouses, there’s no shortage of talented bartenders shaking up amazing cocktails in the ATL. This amount of stiff competition can make standing out in the crowd a tough task.
High Note Rooftop Bar, along with its bubbly bartender Mika Takahashi, stands above its peers–both literally and metaphorically. Located atop the trendy Moxy Hotel in Midtown Atlanta, High Note’s quirky interior and complex-yet-accessible cocktails make the cozy rooftop bar the perfect spot to enjoy Happy Hour high above the busy city streets.
We recently chatted with Mika about getting her foot in the industry’s door, the beauty of a stiff whisky cocktail, and the importance of service with a smile. Mika also shared the recipe for her mind-blowing Blood Orange cocktail, Revenge of Fortunato.
First thing’s first, who are you?
My name is Mika, and I’m a bartender at High Note Rooftop Bar.
How long have you been bartending?
I’ve been bartending for about eight years now.
What first got you behind the bar?
I got a bartending school brochure, like, 10 years ago. I went for a week, and it was kind of fun. I’d always been in the industry, but I never thought of myself as being a bartender, so that class kind of changed everything.
Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
Be comfortable with jiggers. Oftentimes people think that using jiggers is kind of old school, but precise measurements to bartenders are really important.
Favorite drink made by someone else?
There’s a cocktail called Mudcrutch that was made by Jacob, the beverage manager here. It has a rye whiskey base, absinthe, banana liqueur, and Carpano vermouth. It was a very complex, tasty cocktail.
Favorite drink that you make?
I enjoy everything, but I like making Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Vieux Carres–the classics.
Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
I have a guilty pleasure for–do you remember Tequila Rose? Yeah, I love it. It tastes like a strawberry Yoo-hoo.
If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
It would be absinthe, for sure. I like that anise smell of it, and I like the history of it. If you add one or two drops to a cocktail, it changes completely.
What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
Since it’s on a rooftop, it feels like you’re in the fresh air. I like the open feeling of it. Plus, I’m surrounded by great coworkers. It’s an awesome group.
Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture in your city?
I think now it’s evolving. More and more restaurants are opening every month or so. Prohibition used to be the style, then Tiki was back, and now it’s kind of more versatile. It’s not just one style. Hopefully it will just get better and better.
Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
I want to treat guests as I’d like to be treated. A warm welcome will melt the ice.
What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Blood Orange
1 oz. Laird’s Applejack
½ oz. blueberry puree
¼ oz. lemon
¼ oz. Amontillado sherry
¼ oz. Haikara Yuzu Sake
2 mint sprigs
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
Muddle one mint sprig in a shaker tin, then add all other ingredients except bitters to the tin with ice. Shake and strain into rocks glass. Pack with crushed ice, then top with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Recipe courtesy of Mika Takahashi at High Note in Atlanta.
Photos by Andrew Thomas Lee.
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Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.
We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.
Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.
From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.
Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.