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The best bars for drinking alone | Time Out Tokyo

The best Tokyo bars for drinking alone

Where to go when you need a moment for yourself – and a finely crafted classic cocktail

By Time Out Tokyo Editors

We've all been there: be it trouble with work, love or just life in general, you feel like everything has turned against you and there's nowhere to go but down. Not to worry – few are the problems that can't be improved over a fine cocktail, mixed by a true master of the craft and enjoyed while leaning over a smooth wooden counter. No matter how heavy your thoughts, a visit to one of these Tokyo bars will help you cheer up, bounce back and take on the world. 15 spots perfect for solo imbibing: take your pick and get ready for an evening of wondrously calm boozing, free from fake smiles, contrived compliments and the same old conversations. And if you'd rather look for a date spot, check out our top Tokyo bars with a view.

Venues curated by Tamasaburau. Photos by Kisa Toyoshima and Keisuke Tanigawa

The top 15 bars for solo drinking

Bar Kokage

Bars and pubs Akasaka

Known as novelist and former Suntory employee Takeshi Kaiko's boozer of choice, Kokage opened in 1977 on nearby Hitotsugi-dori and has, despite later moving to its current basement location, maintained an ageless charm. The counter, door, chairs and décor all look exactly the same as when Kaiko – also an influential bar and restaurant critic – frequented the classic bar...

Sanlúcar Bar

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Kagurazaka

Strolling the cobbled streets of Kagurazaka just after lunchtime, you might be surprised to see both locals and out-of-towners sneaking through the door into this classy establishment. Yes, they're going for the booze – opened in 2010, Sanlúcar starts business at 2pm and is quickly filled up with imbibers in search of the bar's exquisite gimlets...


Cadiz Bar

Bars and pubs Hamamatsucho

Another one of Kazuo Ueda's former protégés at Tender, Masaru Yokota broke out on his own and opened this hidden basement gem in September 2011. A sherry connoisseur, Yokota named his establishment after the region of Cádiz, famed for its place in the Spanish 'sherry triangle' where much of the world's finest fortified wine is produced...

Bar Land Artisan

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shinbashi

Entering this tiny Shinbashi bar with a group (that's two or more) might lead to a couple of unplesant looks: after all, the basement joint has space for only six imbibers at a time, and you're sure to be rubbing shoulders with fellow patrons on every single visit. But if lack of privacy isn't a problem for you, there's no reason not to seek out...


El Laguito

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Yotsuya-Sanchome

A small slice of heaven for boozehounds, Yotsuya's Arakicho is home to everything from chain pubs and similar cheap boozers to venerable oldies that have decorated the neighbourhood for decades. Opened in 2013 and landing somewhere in between those two extremes, El Laguito – christened after the factory where Cuban Cohiba cigars...

Bar Benfiddich

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shinjuku
Hiroyasu Kayama opened BenFiddich in 2013, after working for years as the head bartender at Nishi-Azabu mixology bar Amber. It’s given him free rein to pursue a longstanding interest in traditional elixirs and herbal liquors, often using ingredients – anise, fennel, wormwood – grown on his family’s plot. The bar has an impressive whisky selection too, but Kayama’s apothecary style cocktails...


Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Ginza

'One bartender can only look after eight patrons at a time, if he's serious about his craft.' That's the maxim adhered to by the owner and head bartender at Shusendo, a counter-only Ginza bar that celebrates 15 years in business this year. The ever-jovial master of customer service works his craft behind a milky white bar made of cherry wood...

Bar Louis

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Nihonbashi

Hiding out on a side street just off Nihonbashi's flashy Chuo-dori, Louis was named after a bar described by sci-fi author Ryo Hanmura in one of his novels, and is particularly popular among lone drinkers for one simple reason – solo patrons occasionally get served special mixtures not available to other customers. Entering the basement space via the narrow staircase takes a little courage, but you'll be glad to have made the plunge...


Au Bout du Monde

Bars and pubs Iidabashi

What do solo drinkers look for in a bar? Great cocktails, masterful bartenders, engaging conversations with strangers, good music, eye candy...the list goes on, but all of these elements can also be summarised with one word: salvation. As the old adage goes, salvation can be found only in church or at a bar – perhaps one just like Kagurazaka's Au Bout du Monde...

Bar Legacy

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shibuya

Change has been a constant on the south side of Shibuya Station for years now: it seems like only yesterday when the Toyoko line trains ran above ground and moving from one bus stop to the other required wild leaps into traffic. Bridging the gap between the Shibuya of old and the 'redeveloping' Shibuya of the pre-Olympic era is Legacy, a new watering hole opened in 2015...


Bar Caprice

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shibuya

As experienced Shibuya imbibers will be painfully aware, it's already been two years since the venerable Correos bar closed its doors for good at the end of March 2014. But the spirit of master Hiroshi Oizumi's place lives on at Caprice, found in a Dogenzaka basement not far from where Correos used to be and run by long-time Oizumi protégé Toshitsugu Fukushima...

Bar Cacoi

Bars and pubs Higashi-Ginza

'Japanese-style' bars have been popping up here and there in Tokyo in recent years, but few of them take the wa factor as far as Cacoi. Influenced by the aesthetics and structure of traditional tea rooms, this quirky watering hole first opened in Shibuya back in 2005 but moved to its current Ginza location, near the Kabukiza, in 2012. Look closely and you'll spot the small irori (sunken hearth) in the room...


Bar la Hulotte

Bars and pubs Moto-Azabu

A trifecta of rough stone, warm wood and faint light welcomes the thirsty to Hulotte – 'owl' in French – an Azabu watering hole that regularly appears in flashy bar features praising its unique atmosphere. But this is no trendy date spot – far from it. It's much better suited to lone imbibers, who are prepared to make the hike...

Bar Taru no Mizu

Bars and pubs Gotanda

There aren't many cocktail bars worth the name in Gotanda, so when the time comes for a properly mixed stiff one, you have no choice but to brave the smutty streets on the east side of the station, slip through the noise and make way for this basement hideout. Opened in 2006, it's spacious enough even for small groups, serves great food, but is still best appreciated solo...



Bars and pubs Nishi-Ogikubo

There are plenty of fine bars worth a mention along the Chuo line, but this Nishi-Ogikubo hideout, which occupies a basement space at the end of a down-to-earth shopping arcade, surely counts among the very best in the area. It's been in business since 2008, sharing its hip building with a ground-floor restaurant...


About the author: Tamasaburau

Born 1965 in Shibuya, Tokyo, Tamasaburau studied British and American literature at Rikkyo University before embarking on a journalistic career. He continued his studies at New York University and the City University of New York, and later worked for the likes of Berlitz Translation Services and CNN. Since returning to these shores, he has specialised in writing about bars, visiting more than 1,000 watering holes across Japan while publishing articles and several books on topics like the joys of booze, noteworthy bartenders and the role of bars in modern society. He is also the author of 'My Lost New York', an essay on pre-9/11 NYC.

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