Bars in Japan: Whisky Bars
Bars in Japan: Standing and Highball Bars

Bars in Japan: Cocktail Bars

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: Cocktail Bars.

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. Many cocktail bars look pretty much like whisky bars, since so many bars carry a massive amount of scotch. 

Bar High Five is run by Japan's most famous bartender, Hidetsugu Ueno (Ueno-san). It was voted one of the world's 50 best bars. It's a tiny little place located in a building full of bars.

Bar high five tokyo sign2_tn

It only seats about a dozen people at the bar, plus there is an additional booth that can hold about eight more people. The mood inside was great - people complain about the formality of Japanese bartenders but I've found that when you're sitting at the bar it's fine to chat and laugh and have a good time with them. 

Unfortunately we were only here for one drink as we were a large group at that point and didn't feel like we should hog the whole place. Someday I will be back for longer! 

Bar high five tokyo camper and uena san_tn
(At least Ueno-san looks good in this picture.)

Tender Bar is owned by Japan's other most famous bartender, Kazuo Uyeda (Uyeda-san). This bar is classy and weighty and feels expensive; the Pegu Club to High Five's PDT. 

Tender bar tokyo sign_tn

Though I was tempted to order Uyeda's famous Gimlet, I opted for a Jack Rose that came out dry, as opposed to my bar-mate's surprisingly delicious bitters-free Manhattan. 

Tender bar tokyo drink2_tn

Uyeda-san's wife was our host for the evening and her English was quite good. I had met them both in New York for a 2-day seminar on Japanese bartending. 

Bar Orange, near Shibuya in Tokyo, is a nearly-hidden downstairs cocktail bar. It's dedicated to the movie Clockwork Orange though you'd not call it a theme bar. It's very sleek and dark and I'd imagine attracts a stylish young crowd. The cocktails are served in gorgeous vintage-looking glasses. 

Bar orange tokyo_tn

Bar orange tokyo cocktail_tn

Ishi no hana was the most progressive bar we visited in Japan. It's run by bartender Shinobu Ishigaki, who won the Bacardi Grand Prix competition a few years ago with this drink:

Ishinohana bar roppongi tokyo cocktail2_tn
(That is some serious garnish.)

I had an Apple Vinegar Martini, while my bar companion had a Yellow Chartreuse Mojito. Other ingredients on the menu include rhubarb confit, jasmine, saffron syrup, and earl grey tea. 

Ishinohana bar roppongi tokyo garnish_tn

 The bartender Shinobu Ishigaki even has his face on a can of a green tea beverage called calpis sour.

Beverage by bartender shinobu ishigaki_tn

While the Ginza bars of Tender Bar, High Five, and Star Bar get all the glory, visitors to Tokyo should definitely put this one on their list.