This news may come as a surprise to few, especially those who know the bar scene in Japan, and the amazing quality and service that can be found. The standards are set high. However, we’re always overjoyed to see Japan and its drinks scene shine on the global stage, and love to report these happenings as they, frequently, occur. Here’s what the 2018 list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars showed us this year.
6th – Bar High Five
Full disclosure, I included the top three bars in my list of the best bars in Tokyo for Forbes, so I may be biased. Nonetheless, the top ranking bars from Tokyo are truly spectacular.
We start with Bar High Fine in the 6th position. Run by the world-renowned mixologist, Hidetsugu Ueno, the Ginza branch is now known globally as one of the top cocktail bars in Tokyo. They also offer a wonderful selection of Japanese whisky, which I’m sure many of you will be happy to hear.
Worthy of its spot in the top ten (which the bar has maintained for a while), we recommend visiting if ever in Tokyo.
16th – Bar Trench
Small, vintage, and hidden away, Bar Trench is a diamond situated in Tokyo’s Ebisu area. The team specialize is unique mixology, utilizing peated whisky, beetroot, spices, and different fruits and vegetables. The bar has risen quickly through the ranks, now enjoying a spot in the top 20.
Trench is usually quite crowded, and is very small, so make sure to visit on a week day and prepare for a lengthy wait.
20th – Bar Ben Fiddich
The modern day alchemist, Hiroyasu Kayama, runs the bar on his own. No menu is supplied to visitors, just a choice of spirit. Gin, whisky, amaro, or absinthe will be the base, on which Kayama builds a stellar recipe.
Herbs are added, which he grows at his family farm outside Tokyo. Foraged fruits and ingredients are thrown in from the forest, and homemade absinthe may make an appearance. Now, sip on your unique, one-of-a-kind cocktail as you soak in the gorgeous surroundings, reminiscent of a Victorian room, which is now housing an alchemist/botanist. Make the trip to Shinjuku. It’s worth it.
More of Japan
Gen Yamamoto in Azabu-juban comes in at 34th position, a bar known for its seasonal, omakase cocktail menu, which delivers four to six different drinks, served as a course. Ginza’s Bar Orchard takes 37th place, with its fruity approach to cocktails. The list captures the concept well: “Pick a seasonal fruit from the bar and husband-and-wife team Takuo and Sumire Miyanohara will create a bespoke cocktail just for you. Expect modern mixology, from liquid nitrogen and foams, combined with old school technique.” The 40s also host several Japanese bars, including Mixology Salon at 40, Star Bar at 43, and Nara Lamp at 45.
Some of the bars have dropped rank compared to the 2017 list, while some have risen. However, the number of Japanese bars included on the list has grown, showing a very positive rise in quality watering holes to be found in Tokyo, and around Japan. I know my list of places to visit has definitely grown. Has yours?