Bars of the week
Seasonal cocktails are the speciality at Ishinohana, Shibuya's answer to the high-end cocktail bars of Ginza. At a basement location just a minute's walk from Shibuya Station, owner Shinobu Ishigaki wields an array of fresh fruit and vegetables when creating his distinctive drinks: a gin and tonic is enlivened with kumquat, a margherita gets an injection of housemade cassis confiture. There are entire menus devoted just to mojitos and martinis, plus a sizeable list of originals including Ishigaki's award-winning Claudia (martini with pineapple juice and caramel syrup) and Polar Star (aquavit, apple syrup and lemon juice). The quality is generally very high indeed, and first-time visitors should find the atmosphere considerably less intimidating than at Ginza's bartending temples.
When we visit Bar BenFiddich, Hiroyasu Kayama gives us an unusual souvenir: a bag of dried senburi root (pictured above on the left of the bar counter), a virulently bitter herb that’s normally used to relieve indigestion. ‘I’ve got loads of this stuff sitting around,’ he says, as he grinds a section of root with some red wine, brandy, orange peel and an array of spices to create his own version of amaro, the potent Italian digestif. When a regular customer comes in, Kayama whips out a vintage bottle of Suze that he just bought online – ‘it’s from the ’30s or ’40s’ – and invites him to do a taste test. A first-time visitor’s question about making the perfect gin and tonic leads to a lengthy discussion about the surface temperature of ice cubes. He’s like the hippest chemistry teacher we never had. ‘Oh, I wasn’t into science at high school,’ he says. ‘I was too busy playing baseball.’ 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 in Chichibu, Saitama. The bar has an impressive whisky selection too, but Kayama’s apothecary style cocktails are the main attraction. Jars of spices and housemade infusions line the shelves behind the counter, and he’s as likely to prepare your drink with a pestle and mortar as a cocktail shaker. He wa
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Best tourist-friendly gay bars in Shinjuku Ni-chome
Whether it be dancing the night away at a club or drinking and meeting new people in a tiny dive bar, Shinjuku Ni-chome offers some of the best nights out in Tokyo. No matter if you’re straight, gay or non-binary, the capital’s LGBT hub will deliver. If you want to experience one of the best parts of Japanese bar culture – talking with and being entertained by the staff – but don’t quite know where to head for English-friendly banter, these five bars will fit the bill.