Japan has an amazing culture for many reasons. But one of our favorites is its food and drinking culture. The Japanese have integrated alcohol into so much of their culture that you can find beer everywhere from a McDonald’s to the top of Mt. Fuji. And therefore doing a pub crawl in the capital city of Tokyo is a must. Here are our top picks:
Bar High Five
Make your own drink at Bar High Five. Having been around for more than a decade now, this famous cocktail bar in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district is something of a pilgrimage for cocktail aficionados everywhere. An intimate space, their back bar boasts hundreds of spirits and just as many infusions, bitters and ingredients to best come up with the perfect drink to suit every customer. High Five doesn’t have a menu and solely relies on interaction with guests to hone in on what drink should be concocted—from the brand of spirit right down to the garnish of choice. Each cocktail here is crafted with a precision that borders on obsessive, making this a perfect spot for connoisseurs. Don’t miss the White Lady cocktail, a mixture of gin, triple sec, lemon juice and sugar syrup. And if you love your drink, then give a high five to the bartender.
Books and Booze – a unique and deadly combination! Bar trench is one of the most popular bars in Tokyo right now. Cocktail books line the walls and it’s loaded with old school charm in the Ebisu district of Shibuya. Large square windows framed by glossy dark wood give passersby a peek into this cozy, cocktail den lauded for finely-crafted drinks and an elegant yet refined atmosphere that evokes the golden age of cocktails. It stocks herbal liqueurs like Chartreuse and Picon as well as quality absinthe, appropriately served with a sugar cube and cold water. Try the famous Morning Glory which is a potent mix of absinthe and Nikka whisky but don’t go by the name. Your morning will be more hung over and less glorious.
Star Bar Ginza
Hisashi Kishida, considered one of the godfathers of Japanese-style bartending and naturally his bar would be one of the best in the city. You are welcomed with tufted leather banquettes, smooth dark wood, textured wallpaper, and vested bartenders. Talking about perfection, even the crystal clear ice cubes are handcrafted and carved with exacting precision to go with your drink. This is the best pub in Tokyo to immerse yourself in old Japan.
Bar Ben Fiddich is a laid back cocktail lounge and a charming spot which in part resembles a Japanese apothecary. Dim lighting and low key, traditional music adds to the peaceful atmosphere here. With only 15 seats available, there is an air of exclusivity about the joint too. Opened by one of the city’s most esteemed mixologists, Hiroyasu Kayama, Bar BenFiddich specializes in amaro, gin, absinthe, and whisky. The cocktails are made with house-made infusions, many of which use plants grown on Kayama’s family farm just north of Tokyo. There’s a large collection of old spirits here, and you can try them neat or in cocktails. BenFiddich is well known internationally and gets crowded, so plan your visit to this bar in Tokyo well ahead time.
The SG Club
This place takes both Japanese and American styles to create a cocktail of flavours and cultures. The bar spans two floors, the top being Guzzle and the bottom being Sip. At Guzzle, drinks tend to be more approachable. Whereas at Sip, the cocktails offered take on a more spirit-forward direction. The elaborate drink menu is as eclectic as The SG Club’s clientele, often blending influences and ingredients from both Japan and abroad to great results. The SG Club emphasises on professionalism and precision yet keeps things fun and fairly light-hearted.