Hiding in plain sight on a Kuramae street corner, this distillery makes inventive, quality spirits from food waste. Tokyo Riverside Distillery is run by The Ethical Spirits & Co, which hit the headlines in mid-2020 with Revive, a gin made by distilling leftover Budweiser beer that was going to waste during Japan’s first state of emergency. The product roster has expanded since then, but the company is still focussed on gin for now, with plans to release its first whisky in 2022.
In front of the gleaming 500L copper still on the ground floor is a streetside counter where you can buy all the company’s unusual but wonderful spirits, including Revive, Elegant (a range of two gins using sake lees as a base), and our personal favourite, Cacao Éthique. It’s a silky smooth gin made with cacao husks and it’s currently the only spirit being distilled on the premises. (The company is partnering with larger distillers to make the others while it builds a bigger venue in Chiba.)
Instead of a free tasting, the shop offers a free whiff – staff will spray each spirit onto a pad for you to smell, just like at a perfumery. It’s a great way to get an idea of what each one will taste like without downing a flight of straight gin.
If you’re looking to get more than just an idea of what this place can do, head upstairs to Stage, the venue's bar and restaurant. A slick single room that’s all copper fittings, polished concrete and pot plants, Stage is where the distillery really gets to strut its stuff.
Needless to say, the cocktails here are made to showcase both the company’s spirits and its sustainability ethos, like the mojito (¥1,200) made with Elegant gin and mint from the building’s own rooftop garden. Be sure to order the Cocktail from Beer (¥1,200), a fruity clarified milk punch featuring Revive.
You can order any of the gins in a G&T, or just neat if you really want to sample the spirit. There’s also a considered list of quality non-alcoholic cocktails – we recommend the grapefruit-based Ruby Girl, using herbs from the roof garden (¥1,000).
It’s not all about the drinks, though. The food menu offers plenty of small plates designed to work on their own as bar snacks or as a pick-and-mix meal. The Kuramae Fried Chicken (¥900), however, is our pick of the bunch. Far from your classic izakaya karaage, these chunky, crispy pieces of chicken on the bone are perfect for sharing – not that you’ll want to.
Stage has a small table for groups of up to four, with more seats at the large concrete bar. It’s a great spot to watch the bartenders work their magic, but if you’re coming with friends, it’s best to book ahead.