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Craft and Innovation by the Glassful: The Best Bars in Tokyo

Code Name Mixology best bars in tokyo
If you’ve never been, Tokyo (and Japan as a whole, really) is a veritable drinker’s paradise. You can literally get a drink at pretty much any time of the day, no matter where you are. From convenience stores and vending machines to upscale cocktail bars, Japan services its drinkers’ needs in full.

We’re going to focus on the upper end of the spectrum for now, though, and look at cocktail bars. As it is in the high-end cocktail bars in the US and other places, cocktails in Japan are an art that takes years to perfect. Those charged with creating these masterpieces spend countless hours learning to shape ice, learning how to shake, and learning everything else needed to make a world-class cocktail.

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Below, you’ll find some of our picks for some of the best bars in Tokyo. There are plenty others, but these will definitely get you started.

(Note: Many of the bars in Japan are not found on the ground floor, as they are here in the states. Often, bars will be located on the higher levels in a building, so if you can’t find the place at first, you might want to try looking up.)

Code Name Mixology (Akasaka district)

Code Name Mixology
Planter Sling Cocktail/Code Name Mixology/Facebook

For those that like leaving your cocktails in the hands of the bartenders, Code Name Mixology is a great place (if not one of the best in the country) for that. Owner Shuzo Nagumo (who has opened three other high-end bars since starting Code Name Mixology) has created an environment that is equal parts cocktail bar and crazy experimentation laboratory—each bar he owns has a wide variety of equipment, including but not limited to a rotary evaporator, dehydrator, and a vacuum wrapper. Also, foie gras vodka. ‘Nuff said.

Bar Trench (Ebisu)

Bar Trench
Bar Trench/Facebook

Bar Trench is where you go if you want a mix of classic cocktails and innovative potables that pair a wide variety of ingredients (blowfish, anyone?). Bar Trench is also a great place if you’re looking for the green fairy, or a cocktail that features the lovely potent potable absinthe in it. One of the signature cocktails here uses blowfish and squid-infused sochu, so if you’re feeling adventurous, you’ll want to check it out.

Bar High Five (Ginza)

Sporting a whisk(e)y list (or rather, a shelf) that numbers over 200, Bar High Five is a great place to sit back in the dimly-lit room for a martini or two (if whisky isn’t your thing). The bar has been so popular lately that they even had to move to a larger space to accommodate the eager drinkers. As with Code Name Mixology, the bartenders here will ask you your taste preferences and craft a cocktail based on that.

Bar BenFiddich (Shinjuku)

This bar is as close to a mad scientist’s dream as you can get. The bartender, Hiroyasu Kayama, makes his own infusions, tinctures, et cetera, which line the walls behind the bar and make it seem almost as if you’ve stepped into some magical laboratory. Kayama is perhaps most famous for using homegrown plants to fashion the bar’s very own version of the Italian bitter liqueur, Campari, which he uses in the drinks at Bar BenFiddich.

Bar B&F (Shinjuku)

Bar B&F Cocktail
Bar B&F/Facebook

The sister bar to Bar BenFiddich (and found in the same building), Bar B&F is a newer cocktail bar that specializes brandy-based cocktails (B&F standing for brandy & fruit). Utilizing brandies from around the world, the bartenders here craft inventive yet simple drinks that will amaze with every sip.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of The Manual’s larger Journey to Japan travel guide. Over the course of a month, our writers had the pleasure of experiencing Japan in its many forms, from high-rise bars in Tokyo to traditional tea-ceremonies in Kyoto. We hope this series of articles will not only inform, but inspire you to take your own trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

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Stumble into Sans Bar in Austin, Tex., on any night of the week, and you feel like you're in just another watering hole. Low lights, overlapping conversations, the clink of the glasses; karaoke might be yowling from its stage, or small groups with heads together could be murmuring answers to trivia questions. You slide onto a stool and a bartender, drying a glass, greets you from behind a polished wood top. But while everything appears normal, something is off. “Within two seconds," founder and owner Chris Marshall says, "[people] recognize that this is not a normal bar.”

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