Faces of the Industry: Karen Lin
Karen Lin, Executive General Manager of Bar Moga, joined us on Episode 57 to talk about the Japanese influences in New York’s cocktail culture. Born in Taiwan, then raised in Japan and California, Karen graduated from USC’s School of Pharmacy and moved to NYC to work as a clinical pharmacist at the Manhattan VA Hospital. Captivated by the hospitality scene in NYC, Karen also began bartending on the side. But what began as a part-time job ultimately led to a bold career change.
In 2007, Karen made the full transition from pharmacy to hospitality and began working as a bartender and floor captain at Lan Japanese Restaurant. There, Karen met SakaMai Executive Chef Takanori Akiyama and refined her Japanese bartending skills under the tutelage of the prolific Shingo Gokan of Angel’s Share.
After completing a six-month culinary program in Asti, Italy, Karen returned to NYC with her new Italian knowledge to work as manager at Dieci, then became bar manager at Bohemian, where she further honed her Japanese bartending and hospitality management skills before accepting the Executive General Manager position at SakaMai, the gorgeous Lower East Side izakaya and sake lounge with an extensive sake program that she helps to curate and oversee.
Karen combines her love for Japanese food, beverage and hospitality at SakaMai in addition to helping oversee the beverage program at the swanky Greenwich Village Japanese-inspired cocktail spot, Bar Moga. A lifelong student always eager to learn more about Japanese hospitality, Karen recently became certified as an International Kikisake-shi (Sake Sommelier) from the Sake Service Institute (SSI), in addition to passing the Certified Sommelier Examination by the Court of Master Sommelier in 2018.
What neighborhood do you end up in the most for dinner and drinks?
Other than Bar Moga, what’s your favorite bar in nyc right now?
I have an unorthodox answer. It’s an after-hours wine bar in a midtown spot called Kaoru. During the day, it’s a Japanese restaurant and piano bar. After midnight, a friend runs the wine bar there - midnight to whenever.
Best drink you had recently?
I got a tomato water cocktail at my old stomping ground, Bohemian.
What ingredient would you like to see being used more in cocktails?
Good sake cocktails