In the wake of Tokyo International Bar Show and Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards that happened earlier this month, Metropolis thought it was the perfect time to celebrate the city’s best cocktail spots. Tokyo’s bar scene is one of the best in the world, with some incredible bars and bartenders shaking and stirring up all kinds of magic to tantalize the taste buds. Renowned for its excellent spirits too, Japan produces some of the world’s best liquor, from auction-breaking Karuizawa whiskies to the ‘world’s best’ award-winning KI NO BI gin, and even Nine Leaves Japanese rum, distilled using Japanese sugar cane. From speakeasies in Shinjuku, to a bar whose signature cocktails are proffered in a taste map menu, to a bar whose decor is an ode to the height of cocktail culture glamour, here’s a list of our favorite Tokyo cocktail bars to visit and pay homage to some of these incredible offerings.
Recently crowned the 17th Best Bar in Asia at the World’s 50 Best Bar Awards, Benfiddich is a break from the traditional Japanese bar experience, more akin to an apothecary of old, shelves stacked with homemade liqueurs, infusions and shrubs. Benfiddich strikes a perfect balance between the deliberate grace of Japanese bartenders and the fun and flair of western mixology. The bartenders here can create bespoke drinks — instead of choosing from a menu, guests decide on their alcohol base, herbs, fruit and spice preferences ensuring that each drink served is ingredient-focused and concocted just to please the person ordering．
Hidden in Shinjuku is this eccentric cocktail bar from Keisuke Yamamoto. Serving up some of the tastiest (and most interesting) drinks in the city, from the wa-groni, to the green tea milk punch (using milk wash spirit, green tea and spices), their menu is mind-blowing and the service, exceptional. Comfortable surroundings offer up the ideal place to while away a few hours working through the menu, which includes food offerings from charcuterie to fish and chips, with a host of nibbling plates in between.
Triad is the latest sibling of popular cocktail bars Trench and Tram nearby. Its split-level interior takes cues from the design of classic train stations and carriages, and to ensure that you order the ideal libation, their signature cocktail menu is proffered in a taste map menu that spans from light to heavy and sour/dry to sweet. They also have a dedicated negroni offering, with a selection of five to choose from. We love the negroni sbagliato.
Elegant and lavish, rich wood and sumptuous sofas lit by chandeliers give the impression of a European stately home, but one with a modernity that eases you into the space. Brick walls are broken up at one end by a vast array of over 1,000 types of whisky, many of which are displayed like trophies on warmly lit bookshelves. It’s easy to see where this place gets its name. Not only a decadent relaxation space, but an unparalleled establishment where the whisky takes centre stage. Michito Kaneko directs the cocktail offerings, creating unique twists on classics like the old fashioned.
For perhaps the classiest cocktail on the list, head to this Ginza institution where white-suited barmen with carefully-coiffed hairdos mix a martini so good you’ll be dreaming about it for weeks. Mori-san, the owner and one of the godfathers of Japanese bartending, still tends the bar almost every night and is a delight to watch as he works his magic. Hidden away on the 10th floor in central Ginza, this is a sophisticated spot that focuses on creating the classics.
Whatever you’re searching for, these bars will have you covered. From tried and tested classics to bartenders with a flair for the creative when making cocktails, many of which are made to introduce Japanese ingredients, materials and cultures, Tokyo remains one of the best cities in the world in which to quench your thirst, and with more cocktail bars than you can shake a stick at we hope this list offers a great place to start.