Those who claim that NYC’s music scene is dead haven’t yet scored a seat at Tokyo Record Bar. A riff on a type of Japanese bar, at which owners painstakingly curate evening soundtracks, this Greenwich Village spot invites patrons to request one song each to hear during their meals. The considerable vinyl collection spans The Bee Gees, Queen, N.W.A., and Bill Withers, and was reportedly donated by an enthusiastic Sony A&R executive.
Tokyo Record Bar offers two seatings per night, and a late-night hang (10:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.), during which crowd requests make way for guest D.J.s. Since debuting last August, the 16-seat jewel box has become one of the hottest tickets in town.
Beverage curator Ashtin Berry, formerly of New Orleans’ Ace Hotel, keeps things humming. Berry pairs sake, cocktails, and beer with seven-course izakaya menus. “The energy all depends on who is present and relies heavily on the musical choices of the room,” she told Edible Manhattan last fall.
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Berry’s sophisticated cocktails impressively don’t use hard liquor — all are made with sake, amaros, and wine — and manage to feel both approachable and utterly fresh. (Think: a Miso Dark and Stormy, made with sochu, miso, yuzu, soda, and a Cynar float.)
We caught up with Berry to discuss her love of dive bars, and what cocktail she thinks is marriage material.
1. What’s your desert-island drink?
Champagne on ice.
2. What’s the first drink you bought when you turned 21?
Jack Daniels and Coke. It’s what my grandfather drinks when he isn’t drinking Scotch.
3. FMK three cocktails: Negroni, Margarita, Manhattan?
F: Margarita. It’s fun, refreshing, and doesn’t make you think. You just want something easy-drinking.
M: Negroni. Reliable whether it’s basic or using different ingredients or base spirits. It can easily switch up to meet your needs.
K: Manhattan. It’s a great classic cocktail but nothing you will miss — and that you couldn’t substitute with just straight bourbon on the rocks.
4. You’re on death row. What’s your final drink?
I have no clue. I’d probably ask for a book instead.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
A dive bar. I don’t know which one, but it would be a dive bar.
6. What’s the best and worst bottle on your shelf? Worst?
EFFEN Cucumber [Vodka] is probably the worst. The best is probably a 1985 bottle of Champagne I was given by one of my favorite grower-producers.
7. What cocktail will you never order again?
20th Century…. Gawd it really just isn’t good.