Hasegawa Happy Hour: Mixology in Tokyo

IMG_3542 Craft cocktails are still a new thing in Tokyo. Most bars are still the izakaya style where copious amounts of beer and simple cocktails are served alongside fried foods, meat, and noodles. There are only a handful of actual cocktail bars in Tokyo, four or five mixologists are paving the way in their own little pockets of the city. I found this article in Time Out Tokyo and added a visit to one of these cocktail bars to our must-do list. IMG_3544We decided to go to Codename Mixology since it’s only a few steps away from Tokyo Station and its wonderfully stocked post office. The cocktails here are developed in a “lab” and using unique combinations and uniquely developed liquors. They offer a whole menu of cheese-infused martinis, foie gras vodka, and gins distilled with hinoki (Japanese cedar), blue cheese, and other unusual flavors. We had read about the Tomato Cocktail and the Tom Yum Cooler in the article and decided to start with those. The tomato cocktail (pictured above) was lovely. It was garnished with drops of olive oil and a dried tomato and had a subtle tomato flavor. The Tom Yum Cooler stole the show though. I’m not a huge fan of Tom Yum soup, but the flavors in the cooler were exploding! Lime, balsamic vinegar, and tamarind–it was at once sweet and savory and tart.

Our bartender, Ohba-san let us taste some of the weird gins and told us about the behind-the-scenes development of the cocktails. IMG_3545 Even though we had planned to drink just one cocktail, we decided to go upstairs to Codename Mixology Laboratory, a prohibition themed speakeasy. Ohba-san walked us upstairs, punched in the code, and introduced us to the bartender upstairs. Everyone else who entered the Laboratory after us knew the code. It felt like a secret society in there! IMG_3547Mixology Laboratory pizzaIMG_3550 IMG_3552 The menu upstairs was very similar to the menu downstairs, but the atmosphere felt more dark and moody. We ordered a pizza–which was so good! One half was Margherita and the other was prosciutto and arugula. We ordered specialized versions of familiar drinks, a Manhattan and I can’t remember what Naoto had. (Sorry!) There was less “showmanship” upstairs, but the presentation of the cocktails was superb. Both of ours were served in pewter goblets with matching coasters.

I made a quick little video so you can hear the music and the quiet chatter at the bar. The 1930s and 40s music really set the tone in the room. IMG_3558IMG_3564After dinner, we ventured back downstairs for another drink. Watching Ohba-san masterfully create these crazy cocktails was well worth the bar tab! IMG_3572 IMG_3574To end the night, I had a Smoked Negroni and Naoto had a Peach Wasabi Martini. (Truth be told, I had ordered the martini, but I liked the Negroni better, so we switched.) At first the Negroni seemed like just an average Negroni, but the smoky finish made it special. And Naoto’s martini was fruity with a slow burn from the wasabi vodka…delicious!

We are looking forward to exploring more craft cocktail bars on our next trip!

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