Born and raised in Japan, Julia Momose’s mother introduced her to the notion of hospitality by entertaining family guests with meticulous detail and special attention to their individual needs. Momose knew she wanted to be a professional bartender after visiting a speakeasy in Kobe and seeing the care taken by the bartender to hand-chip spheres of ice for cocktails. She adopted the motto “everything matters” and made it her mission to offer the same level of hospitality in her life.
She spent the first decade of her career at GreenRiver Restaurant and Bar in Chicago and was head bartender when the restaurant won a Michelin star in 2016. After bartending at Grant Achatz’s Aviary, she paired up with Noah and Cara Sandoval at Oriole, crafting beverage menus to pair with the restaurant’s two-Michelin-star tasting menu. There, she started crafting spirit-free cocktails, beginning her campaign against words like “mocktail,” “zero proof,” and “soft drink.” In 2018, she opened her own bar in Chicago called Kumiko in partnership with the Sandovals. The bar is named after a style of precise Japanese woodworking. Along with light bites from Chef Sandoval, Momose serves an omakase-style cocktail experience with a mix of alcoholic and spirit-free beverages. She’s been named one of “America’s Best Mixologists” by Food & Wine, an Eater “Young Gun,” and made Zagat’s “30 Under 30” list. She’s also one of the bartenders at the new four-story Starbucks headquarters in Chicago.