For the third year consecutive I will be visiting the Tokyo Whiskey and Bar Show, organise by the NBA, I’m looking forward to visit one of the most inspiring country in the world, but before traveling over to Japan, I thought to share few tips from my previous experience…
If the country’s leading bartenders are like cocktail surgeons, their assistants are the hardworking medical students, some practicing their technique all night after the bars close. Aspiring bartenders are sent to Tokyo’s Kappabashi district, home to the stores that supply razor-sharp sushi knives and other restaurant staples, to pick up their tools. Individual bars often expect staff to seek out suppliers—lemon or orange farmers in the countryside, for instance—and lock up deals for their best produce
Nowhere is the Tokyo bartenders’ passion and skill more evident than in the cult of ice. The obsession with perfecting frozen water is Japan’s greatest contribution to cocktail culture at large. Top bartenders here run each cube individually under mineral water, to wash off sharp edges, before scanning it like a production-line supervisor to check quality
1. Tender Bar
Kazuo Uyeda is credited with inventing the intense “hard shake”—a brutally vigorous riff on the casual shake most bartenders use—which not only maximizes aeration but also helps blend in stubborn ingredients like egg whites or cream. Uyeda does not have a single signature drink; rather, he creates a new numbered cocktail each August 25, to celebrate the date the bar opened. Uyeda San is humble and discrete but watching him tend the bar and execute every single drink with absolutely perfection is a MUST experience!
2. Bar High Five
Longtime Star Bar Ginza frontman Hidetsugu Ueno has now opened his own spot, this 18-seat hideout nearby. “There’s no concept,” Ueno has long been known for his masterful White Lady (London dry gin, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice), but at Bar High Five he’s also reexploring international classics—like the Manhattan or Coladas. Ueno San is a wonderful host and definitely one of the most hard work person in the industry.
3. Bar Rage
Fancy fresh-fruit martinis are all the rage here, and owner Tomoyuki Kitazoe makes his own herbal and fruit syrups to use in them. The bar itself, located at the Nishi-Azabu end of Kotto-dori, is quite stylish and features an outdoor terrace area where people can enjoy stylish cigars.
This stylishly retro watering hole in Shibuya serves original cocktails crafted with precision and panache. Bartender Shinobu Ishigaki has a winning way with unusual flavor combinations and mixes fruits, vegetables, and herbs into his drinks.