November 10, 2014
We met the gracious Masako Ikegami in 2010, before we opened our shop in Oakland, at the Tokyo-SF Bartender Salon we helped host at Prizefighter. A few bartenders from Japan who had won the coveted Suntory Cocktail Award, presented cocktails and exchanged tricks of the trade with the Bay Area’s elite bartending community. It was a dynamic event where we met Ms. Ikegami and Mr. Tomokazu Kai of Heuga Bar, who have since become great Umami Mart friends.
Yoko and I visited Ms. Ikegami at Bar Shake, the establishment where she has tended bar for several years. Among the hundreds of bars stacked on top of one another in a cramped street in Ginza, Bar Shake is a must-visit gem.
As with many bars in Tokyo, the space was small and intimate. Every bar in Tokyo has its own distinct character, and Bar Shake was undeniably sophisticated and gentleman-ly. We fit right in.
Requisite oshibori (steaming warm towel) so you don’t need to go to the bathroom to wash your dirty, Tokyo-worn hands.
It had been four years since we last saw Ms. Ikegami and we were so happy to reunite. Tokyo in February can be quite chilly so we looked forward to warming up with a few of her signature cocktails. Yoko started off with a Moscow Mule. Of course!
Pear vodka, orange liqueur and lime juice. Wonderfully presented in this etched copper Mule mug:
I ordered a Daiquiri. Of course!
Ms. Ikegami’s pour perfectly brimmed the edge of the glass, glistening with ice shards. Such nice technique. And pretty!
Next up, a cocktail I saw she made on her Facebook page with fresh muddled kiwi…
Fresh lemon juice, vodka…
Shake and strain…
Gorgeous. A bit of the tropics in the middle of winter.
We then got a special ice tutorial:
Bar Shake receives ice deliveries every day, from an ice factory close to Yokohama. The ice, she says, takes 24 hours to freeze, which helps to create crystal clear ice.
When I asked her why bartenders in Japan take so much interest in ice. She replied, “I haven’t thought about it that much, but the translucence is beautiful.”
At Bar Shake, they break down big blocks of ice into manageable pieces. A long-prong ice pick is an essential tool:
I asked Ms. Ikegami a few questions over email about her craft. Here’s a short interview.
How did you get into bartending?
“I became a bartender because I’ve always liked liquor, and places to drink. My start was at a “dining bar” an eatery where you can eat and drink, as a server.
What is your favorite spirit to use?
I love tequila.
At work, what is the first and last task you complete?
I clean at the beginning of my shift, then again at the end.
What do you like to eat and drink after work?
After work I have a Campari Soda. Usually I’ll go out for ramen and gyoza, shumai or yakitori.
What are your favorite bar tools?
Probably a shaker. I also like glassware. A coupe like this is ideal for Manhattans:
Ms. Ikegami personifies what I want to be as a bartender: gracious, sophisticated, attentive, and precise. And completely committed to the craft of bartending. Until I can achieve this (wink wink), I will look forward to my next visit to Bar Shake.
8-7-4 Ginza, Chuo
Tokyo Prefecture 104-0061
T: +81 3-5568-1007
*Photos by Yoko Kumano