Tucked in The Tokyo Station Hotel — an elegant 1915 property that resides in the city’s landmark train hub — you’ll find the handsome Bar Oak with dark wood paneling, leather seating, bottles of liquor glowing on the shelves and, if you’re lucky, Hisashi Sugimoto behind the bar.
The 80-year-old Sugimoto has been shaking and mixing cocktails at the Tokyo hotel for six decades. The local icon won Forbes Travel Guide’s 2021 Hotel Employee of the Year award for his dedication to the craft and his guests. During his long tenure, he has conceived a number of the menu’s stalwarts, including its most popular drink, the Tokyo Station.
The master bartender created the libation in 1990 for the 75th anniversary of the boutique hotel. “We wanted to make a memorial original cocktail,” Sugimoto says. The building itself inspired the drink. “The red bricks go to the color of cocktail, using Tanqueray and Suze [a French aperitif], [which have] the same initials as Tokyo Station. Also, a cut of lime expresses the color of pine trees planted in front of the station.”
The reason why the Tokyo Station is the most-ordered drink could be because of its balance of sweet-sour grenadine, bitter herb liquor and refreshing gin. Or perhaps sentimental forces are at play. “Since our hotel reopened in 2012 after five years of closure for renovations, many guests who remembered the old time order the cocktail to reminisce about the good old days,” he says. “Also visitors from all over Japan and overseas like it with the symbolic name as a memory of Tokyo. Even for the younger generation, the taste is smooth, easy to drink and enjoyable.”
5/6 ounces Tanqueray London Dry Gin
2/3 ounces Suze
1/3 ounces fresh lime juice
1 bar spoon simple syrup
1 bar spoon grenadine
1 wedge fresh-cut lime
Put all the above ingredients (except the fresh lime) in a shaker and shake. Pour into a glass and garnish the edge with the lime wedge.
Tip: When you’re halfway through the cocktail, squeeze the lime into the remainder. This will add a sharp freshness and transform the drink. The two tastes of the Tokyo Station are supposed to mimic a train coming and going.
This week, we revealed our 2021 Forbes Travel Guide Star Awards. Click here to see the list of winners.