Retro Rock & Roll Reigns at Katana Kitten - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Retro Rock & Roll Reigns at Katana Kitten

When bartender Masahiro Urushido opened Katana Kitten in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, he infused the space with his signature creativity and infectious energy, quickly solidifying the bar as one of city’s most exciting new cocktail destinations. It’s a warm and welcoming place where world-class cocktails are made with a playful, sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach, but executed with such precision that the bar has earned international acclaim, such as Best New American Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail and the World’s 50 Best Bars list.

In addition to being lauded for its outstanding cocktails and hospitality, Katana Kitten is also known for its raucous soundtrack, created by general manager Jordis Unga. “When we first started building our playlists, a lot of ideas were thrown around,” Unga says. “However, everyone at some point referenced the movie “Kill Bill.” There is an effortlessly cool and comforting nostalgia not only to Kill Bill but to all of Quentin Tarantino’s soundtracks. We have built our playlists over time for each floor and outdoor space to try to sort of emulate that.”

Katana Kitten has an upstairs and a downstairs, each with a slightly different mood. Downstairs was designed as a nod to the Japanese izakaya, which is a no-frills, street food-centric kind of vibe, while upstairs feels like a casual version of Tokyo’s famous cocktail bars. The music, as such, follows suit. “When creating a musical vibe for any space, the best source you can look to is the room itself,” Unga says. “Downstairs we nod to more of a retro Japanese rock and roll vibe to fit our basement izakaya style space, and upstairs it’s non-stop throwback pre-90’s classics.”

Whether you’re upstairs or downstairs, the goal is the same: to encourage guests to have a good time. “At this point, we have a few playlists to choose from, and we tend to switch between them depending on the energy of the night. As soon as people start moving to the beat and singing along, that’s when we know we’ve gotten it right,” Unga adds. “When one of our team members’ favorite song comes on, the lights start swinging and there is a burst of energy in the room. When our guests’ favorite songs come on, they throw their arms around each other, cheers, and sing along. The collective joy in those short moments of pure togetherness is as good as it gets.”

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