Bartender Kenta Goto of Bar Goto - Biography

New York, NY

September 2017

Born and raised in Tokyo, Kenta Goto spent his teenage years helping his mother run her restaurant, which specialized in okonomiyaki. Though possessing some hospitality experience, a 21-year-old Goto moved to New York City to pursue fashion design. Funds were short, so Goto picked up shifts behind the bar. Crushed under an avalanche of vodka-cranberries, Goto was permanently distracted from fashion in his effort to convert basic drinkers to woke cocktail lovers. 

Deadset on being the best in his field, Goto fortuitously stumbled upon an ad for an opening at the Pegu Club, owned by cocktail revolutionary Audrey Saunders. He applied and landed the gig. Goto spent the next seven years under Saunders’ watchful wing, becoming part of the management team in his third year. Along with countless press accolades, Goto’s work received the “American Bartender of the Year” award at the 2011 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.

In January 2015, Goto signed a lease for a space of his own, just 10 minutes from the bar that earned him his credentials. His namesake Bar Goto opened on the Lower East Side six months later with a Japanese-inflected cocktail list and Izakaya-inspired dishes. Bar Goto drew almost immediate praise including Time Out New York’s “Best New Bar,” a spot-on Bon App├ętit’s list of “Best New Bars,” and a James Beard semifinalist nod for “Outstanding Bar Program” in 2017.