So we sought out the Star Bar in the Ginza neighbourhood of Tokyo because Hugh did some research before we left. Hugh Garvey, writing for Bon Appetit magazine, said that he had heard "from professional foodies, itinerant bartenders and other bibulous travelers that Tokyo was besting New York and London at the cocktail game." In fact, he said that he "had seven of the best drinks of his trip" at Star Bar. We had to go.
It took us *quite* awhile to find the place. We had spent the afternoon at a sumo match drinking beer and sake and cheering on sports heros to whom we had just been introduced. I'm guessing that the light buzz we were all sporting gave us the patience to wander Ginza, map in hand, looking for the Star Bar for more than half an hour before we finally broke down and started asking passers by for directions. A very kind man, named Tsuyoshi, finally took pity on us and offered to take us there. His kindness, unfortunately, did not match his sense of direction and we wandered around with him for another 30 minutes before he started asking doormen for assistance.
At any rate, we did finally find it, a tiny bar in the basement with no more than a door mat and a small sign announcing its presence to the street.
We were met at the door by a bartender who explained to us that "the master" was not working that night. Perhaps we didn't want to come in? After spending so long looking for this place, we didn't care, to be honest. We were coming in for a drink come hell or high water. We invited Tsuyoshi in with us.
And oh my gawd. I don't care if the master wasn't there, the drinks were beyond incredible. To give you an idea of how meticulous and precise the bartenders are, get this: they make their own bar snacks and they make and cut their own ice. Yeah.
Our server suggested that we could order a drink made with pear, pomegrante or strawberry. Hugh and Wendy went for pear, Ben, Tsuyoshi and I had pomegranate. And they actually all came as different drinks. As far as we could tell, Hugh got a pear gimlet and mine was sort of daiquiri-like but to be honest, I have no real clue what we were drinking. But oh gosh they were amazing. I had no idea that a cocktail could be that much better than average, but these exceeded my expectations.
While we were sighing over how tasty these were, one of the bartenders came out to us and explained to us that they make their own ice. There may have been a misunderstanding about why we were there (we explained that we had read about them in a magazine but we suspect that the staff thought we were writing for a magazine...). Regardless, it was super cool to have the ice cube carving demonstration. They make their own ice so that it freezes in perfectly clear blocks:
Then, the bartender carves cubes to perfectly suit the drink and the glass. He shaved, while we were watching, an ice diamond with 14 facets!
The bar was beyond insane and we couldn't resist having a second round. Ben and Hugh went for a classic: the manhattan. I had a sidecar and I have forgotten what Wendy ordered. This round was equally delicious to the first and we all agreed that these were by far the most scrumptious cocktails we had ever had.
After this, we figured that we should probably get the bill since we had no idea how much all of this was costing (although we knew it had to be steep). Ben was presented with a beautiful, handwritten tab for $270.00. That's right, $30 per drink. Ouch. But worth it. So worth it. If I am ever in Tokyo again, you can bet I'll saddle up to a bar stool at the Star Bar. Kampai!