Tokyo has around 16,000 bars, most of them tiny and often tucked away down side streets and alleys. You’ll also find plenty of rowdy ‘izakaya’, the Japanese version of a pub. The cocktail craze has also hit Tokyo, but here bartenders approach their subject with the artistry of Michelin-starred chefs.
1. Bar Rage
The mixologists at this swanky bar hunt down top-quality, fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from around Japan to create classic cocktails a Japanese twist, such as the tastiest passion fruits from Okinawa, or the sweetest kumquats from Miyazaki. The concoctions here are an art form.
Long regarded as the essential destination for beer enthusiasts in Tokyo, Popeye boasts an unrivalled 70 beers on tap, the largest selection in Japan. Most are brewed by tiny producers around Japan, although there’s an international selection as well. This is gourmet beer drinker heaven.
Japanese whisky has taken the world by storm, even beating Scotland in the world’s best whisky stakes. Zoetrope has around 300 different varieties on offer, including rare single-cask offerings that are almost impossible to find anywhere else. It’s open until 4 am for a nightcap.
It would be remiss to visit Japan and not gain an appreciation of sake, the country’s national drink. Kuri stocks more than 100 varieties, ranging from newly-brewed to finely-aged, along with a weekly changing seasonal selection. A sake sommelier will guide you through the range.
Kamiya is a Tokyo institution, being the oldest western-style bar in Tokyo, from the late 1800s. It’s often crowded, but worth it for a taste of its signature cocktail called Denki Bran, or “electric brandy” a secret recipe created in 1882 by the bar’s founder.
6. Andaz Tokyo
The Rooftop Bar on the 52nd floor of Andaz Tokyo is one of the highest rooftop bars in Tokyo, with spectacular views of the city skyline from the terrace. The signature drinks menu features cocktails based on Japanese teas, seasonal fruits, sake, and premium champagnes.
7. Golden Gai
Tucked away in a corner of Shinjuku, Golden Gai consists of dimly lit narrow alleys lined by hundreds of tiny bars, some so small that only five or six customers can squeeze in at once. Some only serve regulars, but many will welcome you in.
8. Streamer Coffee Company
Traditionally a tea drinking nation, good coffee has emerged everywhere in Tokyo. One such chain is the Streamer Coffee Company, owned by the latte art champion Hiroshi Sawada. Every cup comes with beautiful latte art. There are four stores in Tokyo including Shibuya and Harajuku.
9. Aoyama Flower Market Tea House
Set inside a flower shop, with colorful fragrant blooms filling the entire space, this teahouse serves up an array of delicious herbal and fruity teas (no coffee), beer, wine and hot and cold mojitos. It’s a delightful relaxing respite from the bustle of the city.
10. Roku Nana
Although it takes a bit of searching to find, this inconspicuous ‘secret’ bar, perched on a tiny wedge of rooftop atop a three-story building in Roppongi has incredible views of the Tokyo skyline. Sipping drinks on glass tables with chandeliers inside them is divine.