From its robot shows to avant-garde fashion, Blade Runner-like views, street-side yakitori joints and aromatic tea tastings, a trip through Tokyo is an adventure for the senses. But after a day of cultural immersion, sometimes you need a classic tipple to help you unwind.
Luckily, this gastronomic capital is also known for its watering holes — a selection as diverse as the city itself. These are a few of our favorite bars in Tokyo.
The gleaming marble floors and tranquil water features of this serene spot, located on the 37th floor of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, will immediately set the mood for a work get-together or romantic night out.
Whether you sit at the wrap-around bar or on one of the window-front couches, welcoming servers will greet you with a warm hand towel and walk you through the menu as live jazz wafts through the room.
On the bar menu, the signature sip is the Nihonbashi, designed by the hotel’s manager of bars, Yukiyo Kurihara. The blue and green cocktail combines vodka with a mix of yuzu (Japanese citrus) liqueur, grapefruit juice and a zesty lime peel.
Each element pays tribute to the historic Nihonbashi neighborhood, where travelers will find a peaceful river, an ancient bridge and romantic willow trees.
If you’d prefer to keep it classic, the bar also offers a killer selection of wines, bubbles and gin martinis.
Bar High Five
Hidden in a quiet basement in the heart of Tokyo’s posh Ginza district, Bar High Five promises an epic cocktail experience. Upon entering, you’ll be greeted with a warm towel and a few moments to admire the wood-paneled room and emerald-colored banquette seating.
Helmed by suspender-clad servers, the long wooden bar is stocked with hundreds of whisky bottles — many of which have been sourced from artisanal Japanese producers. There’s no menu, but owner and well-respected bartender Hidetsugu Ueno has trained his protégé, Kaori Kurakami, to craft custom cocktails based on your taste.
A server will ask you about your preferences in terms of flavor profiles, mood and spirit base. From there, it’s a surprise — as is the bill, since there is no menu outlining prices. To give you an idea, the drinks usually come out to about $30 per cocktail.
For those with a penchant for classic cocktails, we’d suggest at least one round at this celebrated Ginza bar. Down a stairwell, the Old World-basement setting feels cozy and refined thanks to classic wood seating, a long wooden bar and dapper servers.
The menu covers all your timeless favorites, from a slightly spicy Moscow Mule served in a chilled copper mug with a hand-carved ice cube to a towering gin martini with big, fat olives. But the bar’s signature is the sidecar. Shaken with a distinctive figure-eight technique, this classic sip tastes perfectly balanced, sporting a crown of froth atop a mix of triple sec and cognac.
The expertly crafted cocktails come at the hand of owner Hisashi Kishi, who is not only a former International Bartenders Association world champion, but also trained the aforementioned Ueno.
New York Bar
On the 52nd floor of Four-Star Park Hyatt Tokyo, you’ll find New York Bar — the famous set of Lost in Translation, where Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray chat over Suntory whisky while the Tokyo skyline twinkles in the background.
The moody spot feels as cinematic and mysterious as it appears in the film, thanks to wrap-around panoramas of the Shinjuku district, dim lighting, live entertainment and white-gloved servers who treat you like a celebrity.
In addition to an excellent whisky list, the bar is also known for its generous classic martinis (served with a side dish of olives), effervescent champagne, slowly stirred Old Fashioneds and tasty bar snacks such as popcorn and Japanese nuts.
Around the busy Shibuya district, you’ll find this trendy stop hidden down an alley around Nonbei Yokocho street (known for its micro bars). Look for a slender slit in a white-tiled wall that’s so narrow, you’ll practically have to shimmy sideways up the steep stairs to enter.
Roughly 10 people can squeeze into this aptly named hideaway, where you’ll find peacock feather-covered wallpaper, an elegant chandelier and a fishbowl-like window framing the train tracks outside.
Order a custom drink from casual bartender-owner Yosuke Kimura or stick with one of his signatures, like an orange-infused brandy cocktail, a rosemary gin and tonic or a simple draft of popular local Asahi beer.