Of course visiting some of Tokyo’s best bars was of great importance to me whilst I was in Japan, and thankfully, I managed to hit up most of the bars on my list. Here is a round up of my favourites!
Bar High Five, Ginza, Tokyo
One of Tokyos most well known bars, Bar High Five opened in 2008, and has been winning plaudits ever since.
Located in an unassuming basement building in the heart of Ginza, Bar High Five has room for around 8 guests at the bar and probably another 12-15 at small low tables. Bookings are highly recommended, unless like me you choose to visit upon opening (5pm) when it was easy to snag a coveted bar stool.
Gen Yamamoto, Azabu-Juban
Gen Yamamoto is a bespoke omakase cocktail bar, offering a choice of a flight of 4 or 6 low ABV/smaller pour cocktails. Yamamoto San is very much a one man team, from answering reservation emails, to carefully hand selecting local, seasonal produce for use in his cocktails, as well as ensuring each drink is served in a unique piece of glassware/ceramic. The cocktail tasting menu reflects “shiki”, Japanese seasonality.
The bar (made from a single piece of 500 year old oak) seats just 8 people, so needless to say, reservations are essential. We chose to have the 4 cocktail omakase menu, it was 3pm in the afternoon after all! Our first drink was made with Tenzan Shuzo ‘Shichida’ Hiyaoroshi Junmai Sake and muddled cape gooseberry, and came served in a stemless coupe, over a single cube of ice.
It really was quite something to watch Yamamoto san at work and I found the omakase menu a really interesting lesson in simplicity. At 4,700 yen ($47) for 4 drinks in addition to a 1,000 Yen ($10) cover charge, it isn’t cheap, however Gen Yamamoto was one of the most interesting and enjoyable bar experiences I have had.
Code Name Mixology, Akasaka
You can only imagine my joy when I realised one of the cocktail bars on my “Hitlist” was just a short walk from our hotel, and after dragging D, G and Jules there for pre dinner drinks, we returned after dinner with the rest of our gang for more drinks, even fitting in another visit the following day.
The largest of all the top bars we visited, Code Name Mixology seats around 10 at the bar, with several tables in the back room, where their charming bartenders were extremely accommodating of our ever increasing table size.
The “New World Order” 1,700 Yen ($17) made with Mezcal, Campari, Sesame Oil, Egg White, Orgeat, Charcoal and Cassis Powder. What a drink! I’ve had Mezcal and Campari together before, but never with additions like egg white and orgeat to change the mouth feel so much! I also loved the little pinch of cassis powder at the end which gave a lovely fruity kick to the finished drink.
Moving away from Amaros, other notable drinks included the “Green Tea Old Fashioned” 1,700 yen ($17) made with Yamzaki Whisky, Matcha, Kuromitsu (a Japanese black honey) and Vanilla & Chocolate Bitters, and the signature “Iced Perigord Coffe” 1,600 yen ($16) made with FOIE GRAS VODKA, Tonka Infused Rum, Vanilla, Herbazu Liqueur & Cream. Honestly, I ordered this for the weird factor but it was great! The Foie Gras was really only noticeable owing to the fatty mouthfeel and a slight hint on the nose – don’t ask me how it works, but it did!
Bar B&F, Shinjuku
I stumbled across B&F quite by mistake, as I was looking for Bar Benfiddich, owned by the same owners and located in the same building, but I enjoyed my cocktails so much that I returned for a second visit based on it’s own merits.
Named B& F after Brandy & Fruit, they specialise, as you might expect, in brandy-based cocktails, with an impressive selection of brandy’s, spirits and liqueurs from around the world.
I started with a cocktail made with Ki No Be Kyoto gin, sherry and muddled Hokkaido grapes which was a perfect aperitif and reminded me of how sad I am that we can’t get sherry here in Yangon.
On my next visit I enjoyed a pleasingly spicy cocktail made with more Kirin Fuji-Sanroku whisky, this time with cassis and ginger. It was perfect for the gloomy weather outside, a real winter warmer!
B&F has a couple of small tables and around 8-10 seats at the bar, you are best to visit early to be sure of getting a seat.
Cocktails were around 1,500 Yen ($15) and from memory, I was not charged a cover charge (but I could be mistaken!)
Bar Benfiddich, Shinjuku
The last of the bars I visited, I can totally understand why Bar Benfiddich is so hyped. Another tiny bar, with bar stools for around 8-10 and a couple of small tables for couples, I was greeted with a few quizzical looks but once again, I was carefully questioned on what I wanted and the drinks didn’t disappoint.
My first cocktail was made with Single Malt Yoichi, Citrus, Shiso, and an incredible bitter herb that grows wild in Japan and is often used for medicine and tinctures (of course I’ve forgotten the name!) Each cocktail seems to be made with its own unique equipment, the shiso was crushed in a ridged mortar and pestle to make a paste, and the resulting drink was pleasingly bitter, aromatic and refreshing.
Yamatoya Bldg. 9F 1-13-7 Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku-ward, Tokyo 160-0023
Open Monday – Saturday 6pm-3am
2F Yamatoya Bldg, 160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku
Open daily 3pm-1am
Anniversary Building 1F
1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045
Open Tuesday – Saturday 3pm-11pm
Efflore Ginza 5 Bldg. BF 5-4-15 Ginza Chuo-ward, 104-0061 Tokyo
Open Monday – Saturday 5pm-1am
2f, 3-14-3, Minato, 107-0052, Tokyo, Japan
Open Monday – Saturday 6pm-3am (2am on Saturday)