Ginza Bars & Nightlife
6 Chome-5-12 Ginza, Chuo City
Looking for Tokyo’s most elegant gin martini? That’s a Mori. Ten floors up from the busy sidewalks of Ginza, seventy-one-year-old martini master Takao Mori swizzles away in his namesake cocktail bar. Inside, the lighting is dim and the décor refined, but like the legend himself, Mori Bar has a playful side that smiles in the corners: baseball paraphernalia hangs on the walls, and clues to the bar’s history are tucked throughout. The obvious order is the Mori Martini. It’s the drink he can’t resist making himself, the drink that brings him out to the bar in his cream blazer. Watching Mori make a martini is somewhere between observing a master chef and a magician. He begins by building flavor at the most basic level, coating the ice with a precise drop of bitters, then follows with a masterful free pour (to say he’s discerning would be an understatement—the weight of the liquor is critical). The magical part is the sleight of hand that is Mori’s stir—graceful, efficient, and indicative of why he is legendary not only for his martini but also for educating many of Japan’s finest bartenders.
6 Chome−4−１2, Chuo City, Ginza
Tuxedo-jacketed bartenders have been mixing cocktails at this Ginza bar for close to three decades. While Little Smith is hardly the new kid on the block, the modernist space with its sloping ceilings and curved bar—designed by Takahiko Yanagisawa—feels thoroughly contemporary. There’s no menu. Instead, bartenders have a sixth sense about what you might like, and somehow, their concoctions always taste just right. A seat at the small bar hugging one of those custom drinks feels low-key and cozy, an oasis away from the jostling crowds outside. If you’re partial to the classics, they make a mean martini.
Star Bar is one of the best bars in Tokyo, which means it’s one of the best bars in the world. Owner and chief bartender Hisashi Kishi is the king of cocktails, a master of both classics (definitely get his sidecar) and modern concoctions. There’s no set menu, just a conversation between you and your bartender about what you like to drink and what fresh ingredients are available that day. Some of the best fruit-based drinks you’ll ever have—with ingredients like plum, yuzu, and pomegranate—will be found here, expertly prepared. Bartenders hand-cut ice for each drink: Sometimes they’ll use “ninja ice,” which is so clear, it will disappear inside the glass; other times they’ll make “brilliant ice,” which glitters like a gem. There’s a small cover charge, no reservations, and you can enter only if there’s room to sit. If the original Ginza location is too crowded, check out the new flagship location, scheduled to open this spring in Tokyo’s Midtown Hibiya.