If you are a cocktail fan in New York, you must have heard of Angel’s Share in the East Village, Manhattan.
Also, you may have mourned in March 2022 to find that the legendary bar closed due to financial hardships caused by the pandemic.
Founded in 1993, the bar was known for epitomizing the classic style of Japanese cocktail culture.
Angel’s Share produced prominent bartenders too, including GN whose Double Chicken Please in New York is ranked No.6 in The World’s 50 Best Bars list and Shingo Gokan whose The SG Club in Tokyo has earned No.14 in Asia’s 50 Best Bar list.
Now the bar is celebrating its comeback: it has a new home within a landmark building in the West Village with the new owner Erina Yoshida, the founder Tony Yoshida’s daughter.
The beautifully revived Angel’s Share soft-opened on June 14 and officially reopened the door on July 20. It is already hard to get in, but it is certainly worth visiting.
The large blue-and-gold mural depicting cherubs, which was hand-painted by Tony’s friend 30 years ago, decorates the room just as in the old location; the original front door, the curtains and the antique chandelier were also brought in to signify its precious history.
A new welcoming addition to the new location is an elegant, little waiting room at the entrance. Once you get inside, there are 17 seats at the bar where you can greet the bartenders from the original location and 48 seats at classy tables.
The menu features 27 unique craft cocktails, all newly developed except for the three most popular items in the East Village (and all cocktails are named after jazz titles as before).
An example of the new concoctions is Painted Paradise. Slightly cinnamony, fig-infused Japanese shochu spirit is mixed with delicately sweet, clarified pandan milk and honeydew. Floral Jasmine tea and refreshing lemon notes make the glass all balanced and deeply satisfying.
All the bartenders seem happy and proud: they all started from the bottom as a busser and moved up the ranks in the East Village, so they fully understand the history and culture of Angel’s Share.
A Bar With The Mindset Of Tea Ceremony
Why did Angel’s Share become so popular?
Angel’s Share was opened 30 years ago by the Japanese immigrant Tony Yoshida. He was a major force that built so-called New York’s Japan town in the East Village. His mission always has been to introduce the charm of Japanese culture to the city through food. Angel’s Share was one of the establishments to achieve his mission.
In America, cocktails bars are a place of speed, high volume, fun and energy. On the other hand, Japanese classic cocktail bars strictly focus on quality, precision and attention to detail, all of which are entirely for their guests’ best experience possible. “It comes from the spirit of Omotenashi, the Japanese-style hospitality,” says Erina.
That is why you rarely find a waiting bar in restaurants in Japan to casually enjoy a cocktail as an aperitif; instead, bars are independent spaces to appreciate a carefully made drink calmly.
In a way, enjoying cocktails in Japan resembles attending a tea ceremony. There is a phrase Ichigo Ichie, which originates in the tea ceremony. “It means that you see this person for the first time but this may be the last time too. That is why we have to make this encounter the most special one,” Erina says.
Angel’s Share portrays this mindset of classic Japanese cocktail bars: no standing at the bar and no parties bigger than four people were allowed. These rules have never changed even in the new location.
The Legend Evolves With The New Generation
Erina Yoshida was not told to succeed the legendary bar by her father. It was solely her decision to find a new place for the existing staff, raise money and start the new era of the historic institution; and she did them all by herself.
She grew up eating at her father’s restaurants and going to new restaurants’ construction sites in a hard helmet with him. But she also has diverse experiences outside the family business, such as in the cosmetic, fashion and art fields.
“I wanted to see the world before I get into what I was very familiar with,” she says.
Eventually, she started working with her father in 2012 and acted as the COO of Japan Village in Industry City, Brooklyn, which opened in 2018.
She was also deeply involved in running Angel’s Share when COVID-19 hit. “The challenges were tremendous. We started delivery services and built the outdoor seating, which was enormously difficult for our tiny team. We bonded even more closely after surviving the hardships.”
However, the bar had to close in 2022 due to the mounting financial pressure accumulated through the pandemic. When it happened, Erina was determined to continue the legacy. “I could not imagine letting our staff go.”
With no support from her father, Erina had to figure out how to secure money for the revival of the bar. Much of the fund came from her own savings and to fill the rest she decided to receive loans from friends, instead of gathering investors. “I wanted to have the full ownership of the bar to keep the legacy intact,” she says.
Another challenge was obtaining the approval of the community board to open a new bar in the neighborhood, which is notoriously hard in New York.
Erina spent two weeks gathering 250 signatures from neighbors to support the opening, only to find two days before the community board meeting that each signature needed the date signed, which she was not told originally.
She didn’t give up. The next morning starting from 7 am, Erina stood on the street and collected the same number of signatures with a date by the end of the day.
“That day I had a boot camp on how to communicate with people effectively. ‘Hello, how are you?’ never worked. ‘Do you like cocktails’? worked very well to initiate a good, open conversation,” she laughs. “I might have ended up marketing the new bar to our new neighbors as well.”
After all these intense experiences, Erina seems fully prepared to manage the revived Angel’s Share.
“At the soft opening my father showed up without telling me,” says Erina. “He is a man of few words, and when he saw what I did to his legacy, he proudly hugged me,” she beamed.
Erina recently became the youngest board member of the NY Japanese Restaurant Association “Diversity is important and I hope me being a female entrepreneur can inspire the Japanese restaurant industry in New York,” she says.
Sounds like the revival of Angel’s Share has led to a birth of a new leader in the Japanese food community as well.