Known for its magical and beautiful sake (rice wine), which is one of the things you must try when you’re in the land of the rising sun, Japan also has a killer whiskey industry that is well-loved by spirit connoisseurs. People who have seen the melancholic Lost in Translation will remember Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and the scene that was filmed in Suntory Whiskey, which sent the beauty and fame of whiskey into pop culture. But long before the movie was shown and people flock over the said bar, whiskey production had already begun in Japan in October 1923 after the Great Kanto Earthquake. One of the best ways to get yourself familiar with whiskey is by visiting a whiskey distillery to learn all the fundamentals and differences it has from other alcoholic drinks. But if you can’t make it, one can always visit well-loved bars in Japan, particularly Tokyo whiskey bars. Aside from being the heart of Japan, Tokyo is also a whiskey lover’s paradise. Tokyo whiskey bars are found almost everywhere and there are even several establishments which offer whiskey bottles great for gifts.
If you’re in search of a unique drinking experience flavored with craft, flair, and culture, here are some of the best Tokyo whiskey bars which you can visit when you’re in the city.
First stop is Nikka Blender’s Bar (B1F Nikka Whiskey HQ Building 5-4-31 Minamiaoyama, Minato, Tokyo). Caught in the middle of being like a company museum and a bar, Nikka offers a wide selection of whiskey drinks and one can geek out in their menu list. If you’re a first timer and don’t know what to order, no worries because the staff will gladly help you with their expertise on whiskey drinks and will help you understand what whiskey is all about. You can also try making your own blend of whiskey drink with the help of their single shots and malt and experiment. Nikka is one of the best Tokyo whiskey bars and a recipient of World’s Best Blended Whisky by World Whiskies Awards in 2010.
If you want to get away for a little while from the bustling streets and colorful neon lights of Tokyo, try going to Apollo (B1F, 8-2-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo). This quiet jazz bar doesn’t only offer some of the best Suntory spirits in the city but also an escape from the concrete jungle outside. Find yourself a quiet little corner where you can sit back, relax, and listen to beautiful jazz music while taking a sip from your glass of whiskey. It’s also a perfect place for those who find solace in drinking alone and making some quality time for themselves but if you like a company with you, it’s also a great place because everything is toned down and you can spend thoughtful conversations with your company.
Bar Tsurukame (1-12-11 Nihonbashiningyocho, Chuo, Tokyo) is well known for its dark wood and leather interiors, giving you the atmosphere and feel of The Godfather. They offer a wide selection of whiskey drinks to their guests and you can find some of the best-aged whiskey drinks here, namely the Yamazaki 12, Hibiki 17, and the Taketsuru 21. Find yourself seated over the bar and talk to the bartenders or maybe in one of their fine seats and enjoy your drink alone or with a company. What’s more interesting and great about this bar is how reasonable the prices are, no charge for the tables, and no entrance fee. It’s an absolute go-to place when you like a drink or two of whiskey.
Another well-known Tokyo whiskey bar is Bar Zoetrope (Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023). Usually packed with both locals and tourists, it’s a great place to score whiskey drinks ranging from the rare kinds, limited editions and the ones you can’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s the place for whiskey lovers. Straightforward and always thinks out of the box, its owner Atsushi Horigami also stands as the bartender, creating some of the most unique whiskey mixes in the city. He can be a bit busy at peak hours but if you’re lucky enough to see him during the bar’s lean time, he’s the perfect person to talk to about almost everything under the sun.
Brilliant Bar (2F Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo 2-2-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo), like its name, is a brilliant Tokyo whiskey bar which has a special service dedicated to their guests. Their “keep a bottle” is a service wherein when the guests aren’t able to finish their bottle of whiskey, they store the unfinished bottle until the next time the guests arrive. It’s the perfect set-up for guests who frequent the bar and those who are extending a day or two in the city. Their whiskey selection is also wide and there’s no need to worry if you’re coming in for the first time because the staffs will help you find the perfect whiskey drink for you.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.