Chilling In Tokyo: Specialty drinks

Whether it's single-malt scotch or the perfect agave, Tokyo has some very impressive specialty bars with huge selections. Here are a few favorites.

Specialty drinks

Hazelburn (Shinjuku Kabukicho) 5285-1470
Hazelburn offers an impressive line-up of Scottish whiskies, along with English draft ales and well-prepared Scottish and English pub food. [See FULL REVIEW.]
lateSunmapKabukicho 1-6-6, Hashimoto Bldg B1F. Open 6pm-3am (5am Fri, Sat) daily.
ZuZu (Shinjuku Kabukicho) 5292-3703
The smart drink list offers eleven choices of popular umeshu like Saika and Kakutama, plus a few liqueurs based on anzu (apricot), yuzu and even decopon (the orange-tangerine hybrid). Lots of shochu, a short but sweet selection of nihon-shu, and oodles of cocktails give you more reasons to sit and linger, while dainty servings of chazuke - twelve kinds, as a matter of fact - and other small dishes provide delicious distractions from the hectic world outside. Budget around Y3000 for drinks and a light meal. No English spoken.
lateSunmapKabukicho 1-21-2, Itoh Bldg 3/4F. Open 6pm-3am (LO) daily.
Zoetrope (Nishi-Shinjuku) 3363-0162
Perhaps the best bar in the world for Japanese whiskey, with some 300 varieties available, including some rare bottles that are no longer sold in stores. They also serve craft beers from Osaka's Minoh Brewery, as well as Japanese rum and grappa and some imported liquors. The light food menu includes home-smoked dishes. Often old movies are shown (silently) in the background while you drink.
latemapNishi-Shinjuku 7-10-14, Gaia Bldg 4, 3F. Open 7pm-4am. Closed Sundays, some Monday.
!Aquavit Bar (Gaienmae) 5413-3300
This very stylish Scandinavian-design lounge features immense Austin Powers-style chairs in which you can plot world domination while you sip on unusual aquavit-based cocktails. They also serve home-made aquavit (Scandinavian schnapps) in eye-opening flavors like coconut-espresso and mango-lime-chili. The small food menu includes Swedish nibbles like roast beets with goat cheese (Y1750); and duck confit with lamb ragout (Y2400).
decorSunmapKita-Aoyama 2-5-8, Aoyama OM Square 1F. Open 6-10pm (LO) daily.
!Craftheads (Shibuya) 6416-9474
This stylish basement bar has one of the best selections of US microbrews in Japan. You'll also find some good Japanese craft beers and an impressive selection of bourbon whisky. Nineteen beers are on draft, with many more by the bottle. The food menu is light and casual bar fare, but well above average. Background music is a bouncy mix of hiphop and R&B. (Open from 3pm weekends.)
SunmapJinnan 1-13-10, B1F. Open 5pm-midnight. Closed Mondays.
Los Barbados (Shibuya) 3496-7157
Despite its tiny size (just seven seats) and hard-to-find location, Los Barbados offers an impressive list of premium rums and a surprisingly diverse food menu, along with an excellent Afropop soundtrack. [Show more]
mapUdagawacho 41-26, Papier Bldg #104. Open 11:45am-1am. Closed Sundays.
Ippo (Ebisu) 3445-8418
If it weren't for the illuminated sign advertising "Fish and Sake" in English, you might have trouble finding this second-story hideaway in Ebisu. The interior is modestly appointed with a few small tables around a long wooden counter. This understated approach to decor reflects the bar's no-frills philosophy. They specialize in two things: fresh fish and sake. [Show more]
SunmapEbisu 1-22-10, Kamasuya 2F. Open 6pm-1am (LO) daily.
Buri (Ebisu) 3496-7744
This stand-up bar specializes in one-cup sake from around the country; the selection perhaps isn't as exciting as a regular sake bar, but the atmosphere is convivial and the shop makes a good first stop on an Ebisu tour.
lateSunmapEbisu-Nishi 1-14-1. Open 5pm-3am daily.
Helmsdale (Nishi-Azabu) 3486-4220
300 single-malt whiskies, a couple of interesting Scottish ales (Dark Island and Black Cuillin, from Orkney and Skye respectively), and an interesting food menu, including haggis, Welsh rarebit and kipper herring. Open shockingly late.
lateSunmapMinami-Aoyama 7-13-12. Open 6pm-8am daily.
Tafia (Nishi-Azabu) 3407-2219
Officially known as "Rhum et cafe Tafia," this bar's emphasis is more on the rum end of the spectrum, with a breathtaking variety (some 300 bottles) that includes limited-edition labels that you won't find in shops.
latemapNishi-Azabu 2-15-14, West Point Bldg 1F. Open 5pm-4:30am. Closed Sundays.
Elevage (Nishi-Azabu) 6419-3889
The sign outside of Elevage reads simply, "Rare wine and spirits," but one look inside and wine lovers will swoon, whiskey connoisseurs will drool. Prices aren't cheap, but Elevage is one of the few bars in Tokyo where you can order wines like Clos des Lambraye Grand Cru and Chateau d'Yquem by the glass. [Show more]
mapNishi-Azabu 4-2-13, Hachiman Bldg 2F. Open 7pm-1am. Closed Sundays.
Shusaron (Shinagawa) 5449-4455
This small but stylish bar specializes in koshu (vintage sake), and they offer several different tasting sets to guide your explorations. The Y1260 set features three different types of koshu, and changes weekly. There's also a set comparing three different mature koshu (Y1890), and a set comparing 5-, 10-, and 32-year-old vintages from the same brewery (Y3150). The food menu is very simple - assorted cheeses and smoked dishes. There's a Y450 cover charge; budget around Y4000.
no smokingSunmapTakanawa 4-10-18, Wing Takanawa West 2F. Open 5-11:30pm (3-11:30pm Sat/Sun) daily.
Agave (Roppongi) 3497-0229
Hundreds of tequilas, including tasting flights, served in a cave-like basement. Although it turns into a Roppongi-style pickup bar after 8 or 9pm, it's a bit more relaxed earlier in the evening.
mapRoppongi 7-15-10, Clover Bldg. B1F. Open 6:30pm-2am (4am Fri, Sat). Closed Sundays.
Cerveza (Roppongi) 3478-0077
This friendly little bar serves around 100 beers on the regular menu, plus additional seasonal beers that aren't listed, so check the display case before you order. There's also a full food menu.
mapRoppongi 3-11-10. (on Roppongi-dori south side, at the corner of Gaien-Higashi-dori) Open 6-10:50pm (LO). Closed Sundays and holidays.
Bulldog (Ginza) 3564-0996
Although it looks like an ordinary after-work salaryman hangout, Bulldog offers a nice selection of ten beers on tap, including three "guest taps" for local microbrews. US microbrews are also available (by the bottle). There's a wide assortment of bar snacks to go with your beer.
SunmapGinza 3-1, Ginza INZ #1, 2F. Open 11:30am-2, 5-11:15pm daily.
Kuri (Ginza) 3573-8033
Sliding open the door of Kuri feels like unearthing a secret treasure. Hidden on the second floor of a drab building in Ginza, this cozy bar seats a scant twelve, yet boasts a menu featuring over 100 varieties of sake. The modern Japanese decor deftly employs noren curtains, dark wood, and soft lights to create an intimate and inviting space. Sake bottles are attractively displayed behind the bar on a tall shelf set into the wall. There's room for six at the bar, with a handful of small tables on the other side of a slatted-wood partition. [See FULL REVIEW.]
latemapGinza 6-4-15, Tony Bldg 2F. Open 5pm-2:30am (LO; 3am Fri, midnight Sat). Closed Sundays, 3rd Sat.
Podo (Marunouchi) 5218-5551
This lively after-work pub is a great place to try makkoli, the very drinkable Korean version of milky-white nigori ("cloudy") sake. Eleven different types are served, in unexpected flavors like pear and grape, okoge (toasted rice) and pumpkin, priced from Y380 for an aluminum cupful. For the more adventurous, the menu also offers pomegranate wine and garlic liqueur plus the usual beer and Korean soju. [Show more]
SunmapMarunouchi 3-3-1, Shin-Tokyo Bldg. B1F. Open 11:30am-2, 5-10pm (LO; Sat, Sun-8:30pm) daily.
BarBAR Tokyo (Yaesu) 3216-0581
The food menu here is billed as "homemade deli" - grilled octopus, yakisoba, hot dogs, prosciutto - with most items priced at Y500. But you're really here for the beer - an impressive selection of Japanese microbrews by the bottle (Y800/Y900), a few microbrews on tap (Y500), and imported beers like Pilsner Urquell and Anchor Steam. There are a few stools but it's mostly stand-up, with small shelves on the side wall and an unusual zigzaggy central table.
SunmapMarunouchi 1-9-1, Kurobei Yokocho (B1F). Open 11am-11pm daily.
Trader Vic's (Kioicho) 3265-4707
Besides their entertaining frilly cocktails, Trader Vic's also has a good rum list if you ask.
SunmapKioicho 4-1, Hotel New Otani 4F. Open 11:30am-2:30, 5pm-12:30am (LO) daily.
!DevilCraft (Kanda) 6265-1779
Excellent Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is served here, and the fifteen taps in the cozy ground-floor bar area dispense a good selection of craft beers from Japan and the US. [Show more]
no smokingmapNihonbashi Muromachi 4-2-3. Open 5-11:30pm. Closed Sundays.
Daichi no Okurimono (Ueno) 3836-2640
This natural-foods buffet restaurant offers an open-bar plan including 100 varieties of umeshu (plum wine) based on shochu, sake and brandy - a great opportunity to explore. [Show more]
SunmapUeno 1-20-11, Suzunoya Bldg 4F. Open 11am-4, 5-10pm (LO) daily.
Screw Driver (Kichijoji) 0422-20-5112
This small specialty bar offers the biggest selection of rum in Tokyo, with more than 400 varieties of rum. They also stock 100 kinds of bourbon.
lateSunmapKichijoji Honcho 1-20-15, Toei Bldg 4F. Open 7pm-4am daily.
!Ushi-Tora (Shimo-Kitazawa) 3485-9090
Ushi-tora is a specialty beer bar that attracts Japanese connoisseurs from all over town with its collection of twenty beers on tap, most of them local microbrews. We recommend the Yona Yona Real Ale, one of three traditional cask-conditioned "real ales" that are hand-pumped. [Show more]
SunmapKitazawa 2-9-3, Miku Bldg 2F. Open 5pm-2am. Closed 1st and 4th Tuesdays.
Kutoma (Ikejiri-Ohashi) 3485-2735
Behold the ume El Dorado, where up to 250 kinds of umeshu await you: Bar Kutoma. A tiny realm with room for about twenty, benevolently ruled by a soccer-loving umeshu expert, this late-night Ohashi spot offers tasting flights (umeshu kikisake set) for Y1000. Choose on your own or ask the owner to tailor a set to suit your tastes. [Show more]
mapOhashi 2-16-24. Open 8pm-3am (or later). Closed Sundays.
Kochi (Naka-Meguro) 5722-2778
This busy shochu specialist, with room for only 25 (including the outdoor seating that spills out onto the sidewalk), features over 100 varieties, along with Kagoshima style cooking. Nibble on izakaya standards like grilled chicken and buta no kakuni, or more unusual items like chicken sashimi. Budget around Y4000.
lateSunmapKami-Meguro 1-4-3, Excel Naka-Meguro 103. Open 6pm-1am (LO) daily.
Speyside Way (Jiyugaoka) 3723-7807
This Jiyugaoka whiskey specialist boasts an astounding list (around 800 varieties), with new bottles arriving almost daily. The bar also features a different "guest beer" on tap weekly. Old-fashioned favorites like shepherd's pie and haggis are available in addition to less traditional items like Tuscan sausage and anchovies with celery. Budget around Y8000.
SunmapJiyugaoka 1-26-9, Mikasa Bldg. 5F. Open 6pm-2am. Closed Tuesdays.