Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on May 2013
The “Green Fairy,” better known as absinthe, served as a symbol of freedom from conventions for creative souls in France 150 years ago. La fée verte can now spirit modern Tokyo drinkers away to another bohemian time and place.
Bar Tram and its “brother” establishment, Trench, are the handiwork of owners Takuya Itoh and Rogerio Igashi Vaz. Both are experts of what they refer to as “the art of drinking.” Itoh says they launched the bars to fill a void in Tokyo, for a venue with a nostalgic ambience that served top-flight cocktails. Absinthe was seen as the link between fashion, art and bar culture, and thus became the focal spirit for their concept.
Tram is the larger, older brother, with a collection of antique, eclectic furnishings scattered throughout its main space. The lighting is soft with a rosy hue complementing the velvet covered chairs. Retro lamps, wall hangings and bottles serve as décor. Each bottle has a story—one that the passionate owners are anxious to tell.
If you’re not a fan of umeshu, Hoshiko at Tram could change your mind. The artisan behind the plum liqueur spent over 20 years perfecting the recipe, and the result is a delightful blend of spice and muted sweetness with just the right touch of sour. Tram serves a Hoshiko Matador for ¥1,470 with fresh pineapple, lime and all-spice bitters; we dare you to try having just one.
Or give in to the Green Muse with an Absinthe Drip (¥1,155-2,940). The anise-flavored brew is served using traditional glass fountains, with a slotted spoon and sugar cube atop a glass. The ideal ratio is apparently three to five parts water to one part absinthe, so adjust accordingly. Tram serves eight varieties of the spirit, including Mansinthe, Marilyn Manson’s own rendition. Cocktails like the Green Beast (absinthe, cucumber and lime, ¥1,200) can also be procured for the reticent. The rest of the menu is divided into sections according to herbal themes, such as ginger, mint and rosemary, in addition to a selection of classics.
Tram’s international food menu features snacks such as cheese and jerky plates (¥500-¥1,250), and an assorted mix of starters and bread (¥900-¥1,200). Recommended dishes include roasted cabbage with herb oil and cheddar cheese (¥800), gorgonzola and orange-honey pizza (¥1,100) or the lamb curry (¥1,450). Finally, take advantage of that betsubara and order the absinthe ice cream (¥850). Vanilla ice cream is bathed in Swiss chocolate—an ideal match for the bitter absinthe, which is added just before the dish is flambéed tableside—et voila!
Trench is the more “maniac” bar of the family, targeting true spirits enthusiasts. There is a ¥500 cover charge and an abbreviated menu, which changes monthly.
Twisted classics like the Vesper Martini with No. 3 gin, vodka and quinine liqueur for ¥1,470 (shaken, not stirred) will amuse the palate. There’s also an intriguing wall of bitters behind the bar, most imported directly by the proprietors through their Small Axe distribution business. Trench showcases no less than 30 varieties of absinthe and a few food items from their menu at Tram.
Intrigued? Hop on the drinking Tram and en-Trench yourself in the world of absinthe, or, as the bars’ slogan suggests: “Get drunk different.”