Cheers to gin
Good Meals Shop in Shibuya may be popular for its homemade, healthy food options, but it is also well known is its extensive craft gin collection which is 350-plus brands strong, 20 of which are from Japan. For starters, opt for the Yuzu Gin. Produced by Kyoya Distiller & Brewer (founded in Miyazaki in 1834), this sweet gin has a shochu (distilled liquor made from sweet potato) base and is enhanced with ginger, sansho pepper and cucumber on top of the eponymous yuzu citrus. The house cocktail for this Yuzu Gin is a refreshing one, as it’s made with loquat tea and soda, and topped with rosemary and edible flowers. Don’t forget to drop by the second floor shop if you’d like to pick up a bottle of craft gin to go.
The hippest looking bar on this list, The Flying Circus evokes an urban campsite, complete with a tent, a caravan and a beautiful mural that’s just made for Instagram. You’ll be glad to know that it has good gin to match the good looks, and you get to customise your G&T. First, choose a gin from a line-up of 50, then pair it with your preferred premium tonic (Fever-Tree, Fentimans, BTW etc). Feeling peckish? Go for the flavoursome chicken skewers which pack a spicy kick or the lemon doughnuts. It serves organic coffee too should you have had your fill of gin.
Step into an opulent French boudoir at this gin bar in Shibuya. The glowing red interior is all decked out with the founder’s personal collection of antique chandeliers, taxidermy animal head trophies and oil paintings. The bar menu, however, is more restrained.
Red Bar offers the country’s three main gin brands — Kozue, Roku and Nikka Coffey Gin — and while the selection may not be extensive, the gin and tonics are reasonably priced at ¥800 each. We recommend Roku gin from Sentry, a major spirits player that7s known for its Yamazaki whisky. Roku is made with six unique Japanese botanicals including cherry blossoms and sansho pepper, and the result is particularly fragrant and maybe a bit too easy to drink.
This cocktail bar in the bookstore neighbourhood of Jinbocho is helmed by Eiji Miyazawa, a well-known figure in the local cocktail scene who has seemingly won every industry gong going. Go check out its 160-strong international craft gin collection – of which 25 are Japanese labels, including Ki No Bi from Kyoto and Alchemiae from Gifu. While purists will insist on tasting the gin on its own, the bar’s many cocktails (from ¥1,400) are worth coming down off your high horse for. We particularly love the Matcha Chai Latte that’s infused with cinnamon, star anise and Ki No Bi gin. Like chai, it can be served hot or cold. But whatever your choice of cocktail is, you can expect them to be beautifully presented.
Koenji’s The Day Food Lab is a casual café-bar with a monthly rotating exhibition, the artworks of which are up for sale. When it comes to gin, the owners only carry craft gin that have passed their taste test; there are 40 on the menu at the moment. We love the new Sakurao Gin Original that was only launched in March this year. It’s a flavourful tipple where the citrussy notes of lemon and yuzu dominate, alongside some unconventional ingredients including hinoki cypress and oyster shells.
A short hop from Gaienmae Station, PR Bar’s warm, plush and altogether handsome interior was previously occupied by Pied Piper, an apparel store famed in the ’90s for its innovative fusion of art and fashion. Many one-time Pied Piper patrons continue to frequent the premises, not least because current PR manager, Shin Takeda, formerly tended the Friday-only bar at Pied Piper’s sister store A New Shop. Expect an arty, fashion savvy clientele. Under Takeda’s guidance, PR Bar has become a go-to spot for Tokyo’s gin aficionados. Four domestic gins are on the menu, including the shochu-based Akayane and the distinctive Okinawan spirit Masahiro, which is made with a millet brandy base. Gin cocktails start at ¥1,000, but don’t overlook the house infusions, which see the juniper-based liquor given a twist with the addition of ginseng, mugwort and other herbs – perfect for those who prefer drinks that lean towards the botanical.
More bars in Tokyo
Ten of the best bars serving world-class malt
There's more to Tokyo's bar scene than the serious, formal bars of Ginza. Talk, laugh and just be yourself at these lively and cool bars
Geek out in these otaku bars in Tokyo, themed on video games, trains, monsters, science and karaoke
From hotel hideouts to whisky temples – get your romance on at these superb Tokyo bars