On my five-day visit to Japan with Suntory whiskies I hit 21 bars by my count. I am talking about them in groups. Next up: The Rest of Them.
The difference between the various styles of bars is subtle and I'm defining them as I see them. I'll be describing whisky bars, cocktail bars, highball and standing bars, and pubs/clubs/dives. This is that last section.
Rippongi Nouen is actually a restaurant but it's notable because they serve highballs with flavors like ginger and rosemary.
The restaurant has big glass cubes in the back that have (or used to have, can't tell) herbs and vegetables growing in them.
The tasting menu had some great food. I think they picked this place not just for the drinks but for its vegetarian tasting menu.
One Shot Bar The Door (I'm not sure if it's called The Door or One Shot Bar) is located in Kyoto. I didn't see much of the bar downstairs as we were in a private room upstairs with our shoes off on with tatami mats having a great conversation. It has a short cocktail menu, mostly of classics. I ordered a Martini.
Three Martini Bar in Yokohama is full of good. The walls are lined with vintage whisky decanters and ice buckets and they were playing a soundtrack of yacht rock. Good vibes all around.
Our hosts gave us a few reasons why it's called Three Martini, but I only remember one of them. "Three" in German is spelled "dreit" as in "dry." In exchange, I told them that in America it might refer to the three-martini lunch or Dorothy Parker's "two at the most" rhyme.
Anyway, we ordered Moscow Mules and the three Martinis.
For bar snacks they had several options including fried sugar(!*!*!*!).
Eagle Bar in Shinjuku area of Tokyo looks like a speakeasy gentleman's club with patterned wallpaper, wooden walls, and carpeting. To enter you walk down a flight of stairs to find a room with the main bar. Walk down another flight of stairs (two storeys below the street) and there is another small bar room where we sat.
We sat at the bar. It has low barstools so your feet are touching the floor. While a couple to our right were working their way through the cocktail list, we stuck to highballs.
Bigri Bar is located in Golden Gai, the neighborhood of tiny bars I mentioned previously.
You enter in a set of incredibly steep stairs into a room that looks like a kitchen in a studio apartment.
I think this is what is called a "mama-san bar" as the owner is an older lady who serves drinks and also cooks you (not exactly good-looking) food from behind the same bar counter.
Track Bar is an uber-hipster bar that wasn't filled with hipsters at the time we visited. They have a wall of 33" records and a DJ spinning them. There were mason jars full of help-yourself snacks. But it still operated like a cocktail bar - you ask when you walk in the door if there is enough seating before entering.
It seems like a whisky bar but I saw cocktails being made as well. I ordered a highball, and their house style at this bar is to serve it in a frosted glass without ice.