It was a warm night in July last year, and Poul and I were walking through the streets of Ginza on our way back to the hotel. This was the summer Poul discovered ramen, so we probably had ramen for dinner that night. Anyway, we wanted something stronger than noodle soup to round off the evening.
I had heard about a place called Bar Tender (or Tender Bar or 銀座 テンダー, depending on who you ask), and we decided to go and check it out. Now, if you’ve been to Tokyo, you probably know that only a fraction of the bars and restaurants are located on the ground floor and visible from the street. A lot of the places are hidden inside the buildings, several floors up, and therefore very difficult to find, if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
I had a mobile data-plan and Googlemaps on the phone, but we managed nonetheless to walk by the building several times, before we found a sign revealing that we were at the right spot. We took the elevator to the 5th floor and stepped into a time long gone.
Kazuo Uyeda is a living legend in the art of cocktail making and Tender is his temple. Mr. Uyeda has won a number of cocktail awards and he is the man behind the Hard Shake, which is a shaking technique that lets the ice roll along the inside of the shaker instead of crashing against the walls. The result is supposed to be a smoother, perfectly aired liquid.
Kazuo Uyeda was wearing a white dinner jacket, but it might as well have been a lab coat considering the scientific process of the mixing and shaking. I had the vodka- and sake-based Shungyo while Poul decided on a Gin Fizz. First, all the ingredients were lined up on the bar by one of the assistant bartenders, who then stepped aside and left the stage to Mr. Uyeda himself. He poured the ingredients in the shaker without the use of any measuring tools, and then the Hard Shake began. The Hard Shake was like an advanced dance move, and if Elvis had been a bartender, I’m sure he would have been a really good Hard Shaker.
Poul looked skeptical, when he spotted Gordon’s Gin in the ingredients line-up for his Gin Fizz. Gordon’s Gin is among the cheapest gin labels in Denmark, and I usually find it too bitter and the taste of alcohol too prominent. I don’t think I know anyone, who would choose Gordon’s Gin as their favorite, and at most upscale bars in Denmark and Dubai, you’ll usually find Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire or Hendrick’s on the shelves.
Of course there was no need to worry, as the Gin Fizz turned out to be the best we’ve ever had. Everything was perfect, from the hand-carved, crystal clear ice to the cooled glasses and smooth taste of the ingredients, and I take back everything I might have said in the past regarding Gordon’s Gin.
The Shungyo was also delicious. The melancholic, underplayed beauty of the drink was like a cocktail version of a haiku poem, and even though the 3am party version of Mitzie Mee could easily have downed it in one go, I forced myself to drink it very slow to really appreciate the flavors of the drink.
Poul and I only stayed for one drink, but I was deeply impressed by the place, so when I visited Tokyo again earlier this year, I decided to go back. This time I had two drinks and enough courage to ask Mr. Uyeda for a picture.
The drinks are expensive and rather small (compared to in Europe) plus they take a long time to make, so Tender Bar is not a place to get drunk. Go there instead to admire the carefully crafted cocktails and the impeccable skills of the master himself.
• Tender can be hard to find, but if you walk down Sotobori Dori and look for the entrance and the signs featured in my images below, you should be able to find it.
• Most drinks are 1500-1700JPY and there’s a cover charge of 1700JPY + 10% taxes so expect to spend at least around 6000 JPY on a night at Tender.
• Tender Bar doesn’t take reservations
• The dress code is smart casual. Smoking is allowed
Tender Bar, Nogakudo Bldg. 5F, 6-5-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Tel: 03-3571-8343, Hours: Mon-Sat 17:00-1:00, closed on Sundays, Address in Japanese: 銀座 テンダー, 東京都 中央区 銀座 6-5-15 銀座能楽堂ビル ５Ｆ