I have a particular fondness for the gimlet, that simple but elegant concoction of gin, fresh lime juice and sweetened lime cordial. For many, the drink conjures images of dames and detectives from noir films, but mine is a more nostalgic affection. The gimlet was my cocktail of choice during my early 20s, when I lived in San Francisco and frequented louche watering holes that played rockabilly and swing tunes. What I have always loved about the drink is its poise — if the martini is the king of cocktails, then the gimlet is the queen.

Daisuke Ito, the congenial master at Land Bar Artisan in Tokyo's Shinbashi district, shares my affinity for the gimlet — in fact, he says the cocktail changed his life. Bespectacled and baby-faced, Ito dresses in classic speakeasy fashion: a crisp white shirt, bow tie and suspenders. Growing up, he had been attracted to the atmosphere of Hollywood glamour that surrounded bars and drinking culture.

"There was something sexy and James Bond-like about the world of alcohol, but I never really considered a career as a bartender," Ito recalls.