(Shinjuku Kabukicho - Bar). 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.
(Shinjuku Kabukicho - Bar). 5285-1470
Hazelburn offers an impressive line-up of Scottish whiskies, along with English draft ales and well-prepared Scottish and English pub food.
(Nishi-Shinjuku - Bar). 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.
Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-10-14, Gaia Bldg 4, 3F. Open 7pm-4am. Closed Sundays, some Monday.
There's great American-style barbecue and a nice collection of a dozen craft beers to wash it down at this cozy bar-restaurant located halfway along Cat Street. Weekday lunches start at Y1000, and during the evening you can snack on sandwiches (from Y1200) or indulge in mains like their voluminous four-meat platter with two side dishes (Y3800 for two people). In addition to beer, the bar carries well-chosen craft bourbons and other artisanal liquors. The soundtrack leans heavily towards the blues.
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).
There's an excellent range of nineteen craft beers on tap (mostly US and Japanese) at this stylish basement bar, plus some very hard-to-find bottled imports for when you want to splurge. It's also one of Tokyo's best bars for bourbon whisky. 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.)
Shibuya-ku, Jinnan 1-13-10, B1F. Open 5pm-midnight. Closed Mondays.
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.
Shibuya-ku, Udagawacho 41-26, Papier Bldg #104. Open 11:45am-1am. Closed Sundays.
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.
(Nishi-Azabu - Bar). 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.
Minato-ku, Nishi-Azabu 2-15-14, West Point Bldg 1F. Open 5pm-4:30am. Closed Sundays.
(Roppongi - Bar). 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.
Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-15-10, Clover Bldg. B1F. Open 6:30pm-2am (4am Fri, Sat). Closed Sundays.
Mixx is among the first bars in Tokyo to wholeheartedly embrace the trend of molecular mixology. Signature cocktails include the Caprese, spiced tomato juice and vodka topped with mozzarella foam and fried basil, and the Oeuf a la coque, a creamy whip of rum, coconut, mango juice, and vanilla ice cream (Y2500 each).
Minato-ku, Akasaka 1-13-33, ANA Intercontinental Hotel 36F. Open 11:30am-1am daily.
This refurbished bar, hovering over the main lobby of the ANA Hotel, serves several different champagnes by the glass or the bottle, ranging from Y1300 to Y3000 per glass. There's also a limited food menu and lunch specials at midday.
Minato-ku, Akasaka 1-13-33, ANA Intercontinental Hotel 3F. Open 11:30am-11pm daily.
(Marunouchi - Korean). 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.
Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 3-3-1, Shin-Tokyo Bldg. B1F. Open 11:30am-2, 5-10pm (LO; Sat, Sun-8:30pm) daily.
A very casual counter-bar serving food from Kagoshima and further south - satsuma-age (fish cakes), tonkotsu (pork stew), goya kimchee, and of course plenty of shochu.
Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-7-3, Tokyo Bldg Tokia B1F. Open 11am-2:30pm, 5-10:30pm (LO) daily.
Best known for their popular Y6,000 "Champagne Brunch" on Sundays, featuring all the sparkling wine you can drink.
Chiyoda-ku, Kioicho 4-1, Hotel New Otani 4F. Open 11:30am-2:30, 5pm-12:30am (LO) daily.
There's something self-indulgent and luxurious about an all-you-can-eat buffet, but a natural-foods buffet on the other hand seems positively virtuous - "Eat what you want - it's all good for you." The real fun of a buffet, though, is being able to try lots of different flavors without having to decide what to order, and the spread here offers ample variety.
Taito-ku, Ueno 1-20-11, Suzunoya Bldg 4F. Open 11am-4, 5-10pm (LO) daily.
This small specialty bar offers the biggest selection of rums in Tokyo, with more than 400 varieties. They also stock 100 kinds of bourbon.
(Ikejiri-Ohashi - Bar). 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.
Meguro-ku, Ohashi 2-16-24. Open 8pm-3am (or later). Closed Sundays.
(Naka-Meguro - Kyushu). 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.
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.
Meguro-ku, Jiyugaoka 1-26-9, Mikasa Bldg. 5F. Open 6pm-2am. Closed Tuesdays.