Sip at The SG Club
Photo: The SG ClubSip, the basement bar at The SG Club

Two Tokyo bars made the World’s 50 Best Bars 2021 list

Despite alcohol restrictions in Tokyo for much of the year, The SG Club and Bar Benfiddich still found the spotlight

Kit Kriewaldt
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Kit Kriewaldt
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The end of the year means ubiquitous best-of lists, from films to burgers. It’s impossible to keep track of them all, but one we never miss is the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Coming hot on the heels of the Michelin Guide Tokyo announcement, the annual ranking is a chance for bars around the world to strut their stuff.

The awards were announced via live-stream from London, and you can watch the top 50 countdown above. It hasn’t been an easy year for our favourite city drinking spots. Pandemic rules in Tokyo severely restricted alcohol sales for much of 2021, including a de facto prohibition on drinking in bars from April to June. But we’re pleased to see two of the city’s best bars getting the international recognition they deserve.

SG Club
Photo: The SG ClubGuzzle, the ground-floor bar at The SG Club

Coming in at No 18 is Shibuya stalwart and world-class cocktail den The SG Club. Shingo Gokan’s freewheeling three-floor speakeasy has been on the list since 2019 and one visit tells you why – not that you’ll be able to stop at just one. From the basement lounge to the ground-floor counter to the upstairs cigar bar, the drinks here are fun, surprising and moreish. We say this every year, but The SG Club is still one of our favourite hangouts in Tokyo.

After making a triumphant return to the list in 2020, Shinjuku’s Bar Benfiddich jumped from No 40 to No 32 this year. A cross between an alchemist’s shop and a cocktail bar, Benfiddich is known for owner Hiroyasu Kayama’s fresh drinks, painstakingly made with herbs and fruit from his family farm. If Kayama can find a way to produce an ingredient himself, he does, which explains why his bar continues to impress.

The Bellwood
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

On the back half of the list at No 76 is The Bellwood, making its first appearance. Easily one of the best openings during the pandemic, the old-school bar is based on Tokyo’s classic kissaten coffee shops. Just like a good kissaten, it’s worth visiting for the food as much as the drinks – especially the bar’s current modern sushi and cocktail pairing, Bellsushi.

You can see the full World’s 50 Best Bars 2021 list on the website.

Looking for more outstanding places to drink in the city? Check out our list of the best bars in Tokyo.

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