Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on December 2009

Courtesy of ANA Intercontinental Tokyo

Courtesy of ANA InterContinental Tokyo

The ladies’ happy hour at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo Champagne Bar demands a serious love of the bubbly. Pairing the phrase “happy hour” with an asking price of ¥4,500 might seem like a contradiction to some, but consider what you get for your money—three hours of all-you-can-drink champagne—and things start to look very happy indeed.

This isn’t cheap sparkling, either. The menu includes Louis Roederer Brut Premier and Mumm Cordon Rosé, along with several champagne cocktails, a red and white wine, non-alcoholic cocktails, and individual platters of finger food. An à la carte happy hour menu offering glasses of champagne for ¥1,470 is also available if you go with a male friend.

I arrived with my accomplice, similarly experienced in the art of drinking beyond one’s means, on a Thursday evening at 5pm on the dot. Offered a choice between a non-smoking table in a room curtained with shimmering fabric or one near the bar with views of the atrium and the lounge below, we opted for the latter. Though we’d expected to see local OLs teaming up for the special, there was only a smattering of customers, many of whom had the air of travelers.

After starting with two champagne cocktails, which were tasty in a fruity kind of way, we quickly dug into the real stuff. Our glasses of the highly drinkable Louis Roederer arrived more than half full and, once we displayed a preference for this particular tipple, one of the black-vested bartenders routinely swung by our table to give us a top-up. The experience of free-flowing champagne without fear of a retributive bill is a rarefied luxury indeed, and one to which we quickly succumbed, sinking deeper into the squishy clamshell chairs with every round. An hour into the evening, upon heading to the restroom, we realized we were totally drunk. Mirroring that sentiment, a pair of young women stumbled out in defeat, one barely able to keep her footing on the stairs.

Courtesy of ANA Intercontinental Tokyo

Courtesy of ANA Intercontinental Tokyo

Having already picked our way through the food platter (tasty tea sandwiches and crackers with spread, but no substitute for the dinner we hadn’t yet had), we realized that we needed something more filling. Flipping through the menu, we also noted the regular prices for the happy hour beverages. Most shocking was the cost of our now beloved Louis Roederer: ¥3,045 a glass. Would we lose out to our hunger? We ordered a cheese platter (¥2,205) and were equally surprised to find it plentiful in both variety and quantity—and effectively sobering.

While bar reviews normally end in the evening, the true verdict on a champagne bender isn’t revealed until the next morning. Despite consuming over a bottle’s worth apiece, neither my friend nor I reported a headache or any general haggardness the day after. Reassured that the calm and sophisticated Champagne Bar hadn’t demanded a complete sacrifice of our own (presumed) calm sophistication, we knew we’d be crawling—err, sauntering—back next time we got a serious urge for some bubbles.