Where to drink in Tokyo 2024: Best bars to savour creative cocktails
· 12 February 2024
Here are some recommended bars in Tokyo ranging from intimate joints to swanky spots with views of the city.
Visit these 4 top bars in Tokyo to savour creative cocktails and Japanese-style bar bites. Most offer innovative drinks using Japanese ingredients along with fine whisky, sake and champagne.
Located on the ground floor of the stylish Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon, the Gold Bar is a sophisticated haven for hotel guests and visitors to swing by. Thanks to its highly innovative cocktail menu, Gold Bar was placed top 3 in the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award for The World’s 50 Best Bars 2023.
Director of bars Hideyuki Saito and his team of bartenders created the ‘Two Faces’ themed menu featuring a variety of innovative cocktails. You’d need to experience the menu personally to understand how it works. But in a nutshell, the ‘Two Faces’ themes include ‘beauty and ugliness’, ‘light and shadow’, and ‘strength and weakness’ etc. – uniquely depicted in beautifully edgy illustrations by local female tattoo artist Haruka Sasaki. The second theme on each page is revealed when you shine a blacklight over the graphic work. The concept of the Two Faces menu represents the things in life which can only be understood by looking at both sides – and this is imaginatively brought to life via the cocktails.
For instance, ‘Two Faces of Emotion’ is inspired by Picasso’s work. When Picasso was experiencing difficulties in his life as an artist, absinthe served to a certain extent as his inspiration. Gold Bar’s team created a martini-style ‘Psychedelic’ cocktail that combines Picasso’s favourite absinthe with peach and aloe. When the menu is illuminated with the blacklight, you will get the ‘Revolutionist’ cocktail, a combination of rum, calvados, Vermouth with citrus and beets, served with a Cubist inspired garnish (this is inspired by the period Picasso revolutionised the art world with the unveiling of cubism – his imaginative approach to representing reality).
Fascinating drinks menu aside, the bar offers a menu of small plates (think: wagyu katsu sandwich, salmon marinated in miso, and spaghetti with karasumi (bottarga)) and a vast selection of whiskies and local gins.
Where: 4 Chome-1-1 Toranomon, Minato City
Mandarin Bar is a modern Japanese style bar at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, which affords stunning views of the city and a glamorous vibe. It’s a top spot for executives to come by after work or travellers to unwind over a cocktail and bar bites. Head bartender Kengo Oda crafts signature cocktails woven with expressions of Nihonbashi, the ancient starting point of five routes where the hotel is located.
Kick off your evening with the signature martini concocted with the original Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo blend tea with Belvedere vodka, lillet blanc and grape vinegar. Or the Nihonbashi G&T made with Gyokuru green tea, Botanist gin and tonic.
Some of the inventive drinks include the Hakone Warbling – a fizzy herbaceous cocktail, inspired by the ‘white eye’ bird family living in the forest of Mt. Hakone. Beautifully presented in a glass vessel surrounded by “foliage”, the green-hued drink is made with Roku gin, house-made matcha liqueur, palo santo, elderflower, osmanthus, hinoki, mint, lime and soda. Or order the Muromachi, a long cocktail made of Dassai shochu, inspired by the kimono town of Muromachi. The refreshing floral drink is a mix of jasmine tea, Japanese pear, rose, elderflower, lemon, sandalwood, pearl powder and soda. Beyond cocktails, the menu offers an impressive selection of seasonal sakes, whisky and mocktails.
While sipping your drinks, munch on deep-fried shrimp yuba roll with salmon roe and sudachi or onigiri rice balls. Or tuck into something more substantial like oyako don with grilled chicken or beef steak don with New Zealand grass fed ribeye and grilled vegetables. The extensive food menu are features pastas like spaghetti carbonara with guanciale and seafood risotto.
Where: 2 Chome-1-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chuo City
Tucked away in Hibiya Okuroji, at the Shimbashi area, is Folklore – a concept dedicated to traditional Japanese alcoholic beverages called ‘kokushu’: sake, shochu and awamori. There’s also domestic whisky and gin to be had. This hidden gem was launched in 2022 by Tokyo’s acclaimed Mixology group by CEO Shuzo Nagumo.
Reminiscent of a quaint, zen-inspired house, there are only half a dozen bar seats in this minimalist space. Fumihiko Sano Studio was tasked to create a bar that “embodies Japanese climate, history and culture”. Architect and designer Fumihiko Sano used timber he had collected over time (some from ancient trees dating to 300 to 400 years), as well as materials from different parts of Japan – each with a different story to tell.
To concoct their drinks, the bartenders use different types of sake and shochu combined with liquors, liqueurs and local flavours. Try the ‘Origin’, a combination of unrefined doburoku sake with pear vodka, chamomile vodka and honey. You can do a tasting flight of the more unusual sake and shochu varieties.
Folklore makes a quiet place to unwind after a day out in the bustling capital. The watering hole is particularly ideal for solo or female travellers as it opens its door at 4pm.
Where: 1-7-1 Uchisaiwaicho Hibiya Okuroji G27, Koto-ku
Tokyo Confidential is one of the latest bars to open in the city. Located in the Azabujuban neighbourhood, the cosy yet modern walk-in only bar has stunning views of Tokyo Tower from the balcony and rooftop space – this area is great for an alfresco drinking experience. At the heart of the venue is a pine bar top carved from 300-year-old reclaimed shrine wood.
The range of signature cocktails to low- and no-ABV drinks by British-born founder Holly Graham and Japanese head bartender Wakana Murata (formerly of Gold Bar) offers something for everyone.The drinks showcase Japanese ingredients in creative ways, such as the spirit-forward Destroy All Monsters with miso brown butter-washed gin, manzanilla sherry, bianco vermouth and ponzu, or the effervescent Go Lightly with Doburoku, awamori, elderflower, tomato, verjus and sparkling wine. The cocktail menu is complemented by an extensive selection of agave and Champagne, with rare and exclusive pours by the glass. Tokyo Confidential also features a collection of lockers above the bar which offers guests the opportunity to rent a locker and “Lock Up” a bottle from a curated list of premium spirits.
Bar bites are not your run-of-the-mill stuff. The items are created by two-Michelin-starred SÉZANNE’s Chef Daniel Calvert. They include the Everything Bagel with cream cheese and 30g of Kristal caviar, chocolate madeleines with rum cream and Coronation chicken monaka.
Where: 9F, THE V CITY PLACE, 1 Chome 6-1 Azabujuban, Minato-ku
Text by: Amy Van