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The Dark Art Of Cacao

A TOKYO BAR EXPLORES THE DELICIOUS FRUIT’S BITTERSWEET HISTORY

THE GIN, VODKA AND CAMPARI IN THE AMAZON CACAO NEGRONI ARE INFUSED WITH CACAO, THEN MIXED WITH CARPANO ANTICA FORMULA VERMOUTH.


Decked with decaying foliage, taxidermied deer, and skull imagery, Memento Mori embodies its name’s Latin translation: “Remember you must die.” The concept — which means to recognize one’s mortality and appreciate life — is rooted in classical Greco-Roman philosophy. A visit to this lavish bar in Tokyo’s Toranomon Hills Business Tower will have you contemplating the temporality of existence as you savor decadent drinks featuring cacao. 


Memento Mori’s head bartender, Shuzo Nagumo, is inspired by cacao’s colorful, transglobal history. Meso-American people drank cacao with vanilla, honey, and chili over 3,000 years ago. A 1600s Caribbean beverage included cacao, cloves, almonds, aniseed, and orange flower water. Nagumo realized old cacao recipes resembled modern cocktails!


His Amazon Cacao and Rose cocktail references the rose-flavored hot chocolate popular with European aristocrats in the 1700s. Its rose-distilled vodka is made in-house, like his cacao nib liquors. The bottles evoke an English apothecary of the same era (cacao was sold as medicine in England then.)



The cacao is sourced from around the world — spin the globe on the main counter to see the places marked with pins. Nagumo uses all of the pod: bitter nibs, sweet pulp, and tea-like husk. Try cacao versions of a Negroni or Vesper martini, or new concoctions like the Cacao Pulp Fizz (with vodka and passionfruit) or Dead Inside (with bourbon, cacao Campari, and strawberry). 


Enjoy a course of themed cocktails tracing cacao’s journey from bean to chocolate, or match infused drinks with chocolate sweets. The ancient Aztecs once mixed sacrificial victims’ blood with cacao for ceremonial brews. Nagumo doesn’t go that far, but he does craft seductive elixirs for adults.


Mocktails, non-alcoholic mocha and chocolate drinks, and desserts like chocolate terrine and pudding are also served. The bar opens at 4 P.M. — so you can embrace the feeling of “memento mori” with to-die-for treats on indulgent afternoons.


3F, Toranomon Hills Business Tower, 1-17-1 Minato-ku, Tokyo

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