The 6 Best Places to Drink Japanese Whisky Cocktails in Tokyo
For Japanese whisky enthusiasts, drinking the spirit in Tokyo is a kid-in-a-candy-store experience, with rare bottles suddenly, thrillingly within reach. Like Scotch, Japanese whisky is produced from malted barley at a single distillery, giving it a round, elegant profile. For this reason, both aged and unaged expressions have worldwide enthusiasts clamoring for the stuff.
While the most average of Tokyo izakayas will mix you a cheap highball with NAS (no age statement) Yamazaki, other bars nab rare bottles, line their walls with these glittering liquid trophies and use them to create complex cocktails. Here are six of the city’s top haunts offering a wide whisky selection and an array of mixed drinks.
Located in a dark den in Roppongi, Wodka Tonic stocks more than 1,000 whiskies, paying special attention to Scotch. Japanese whisky fiends will find a great selection of older, exceedingly rare options, including Yamazaki’s 1980 single malt. Pro tip: Try the bar snacks, like the addictively crispy, deep-fried angel-hair pasta dusted with truffle salt.
Tokyo’s bar scene is sharply divided between old and new watering holes. Many of the city’s more established spots, such as Little Smith, adhere to classic cocktails made with commercial products like Monin syrups. The next generation of barkeeps, however, highlight progressive techniques and fresh ingredients. Hiroyasu Kayama’s cozy, dimly lit Ben Fiddich in Shinjuku falls somewhere in the middle, reconstructing classic cocktails with Japanese whiskies and other spirits. In addition to an impressive collection of vintage liquors behind the bar, Ben Fiddich offers inventive drinks like house-made Campari and absinthe, and a gin and tonic with à la minute botanical infusions.
If you’ve heard of one bar in Tokyo, High Five is probably it. Listed as number 23 on Drinks International’s World’s 50 Best Bars 2016 list, the relocated Ginza lounge is a bit of a tourist attraction and often populated with more westerners than Japanese drinkers. Regardless, the cocktails by English-speaking owner Hidetsugu Ueno are grade A, spanning traditional favorites and modified classics made with fresh ingredients, as well as many unsung Scotches.
A bit more under the radar than some of the other bars on this list, Shibuya’s Shoto Club showcases bartenders in crisp vests meticulously muddling fresh fruit for balanced cocktails that favor nuanced flavor over heavy booze. Consider this place a secret gem and a reprieve from Tokyo’s frenetic streets.
No trip to #Tokyo would be complete without trying one of the city's excellent cocktail bars -- which build drinks with a grace (both flavor and technique) unsung in the US. Learn more when I takeover the bikinidotcom Snapchat for the day on November 8!! [pictured above, a persimmon gin tipple from Shoto Club]
Keen to try bacon and eggs in liquid form? Code Name Mixology is ready to serve just that, courtesy of an inventive cocktail composed of smoked bacon vodka, corn syrup, egg, centrifuged tomato liquid, Camembert salt and pepper. As the name suggests, progressive technique, whimsical tipples and totally unorthodox flavor mash-ups are the hallmarks of this whisky-heavy chainlet pouring miso chocolate martinis, as well as tom yum coolers. Owner and bar wizard Shuzo Nagumo worked as a chef at London’s Nobu before opening his first of three Tokyo bars in 2009.
⑥ Bar Rage
It’s both expensive and time consuming to get drunk in Tokyo—a city where the act of making a cocktail often resembles performance art. Bar Rage, which has locations in Ginza and Aoyama, offers one of the freshest shows in town, creating drinks with rare whiskies and other spirits. Discerning bartenders work only with perfectly ripe fruit and vegetables, concentrating cocktails on each ingredient’s inherent flavor.
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