Don’t let the name fool you, this compact Ueno bottle shop is unrelated to the ubiquitous Hard Off chain of thrift stores. It is, however, packed with second-hand bottles of booze going all the way back to the 60s. The focus here is on spirits – there’s no beer and only a small wine selection – and you’re likely to find bottles you just won’t see anywhere else in Tokyo. The eclectic range makes Bottle Off a must-visit for hardcore whisky collectors or picky drinkers looking for something special. But it’s also a great place to snag a bargain.
Sure, the glass cabinet is full of hard-to-find whiskies with price tags to make your eyes water, but the open shelves have obscure liqueurs from around the world for as little as ¥1,000. Then there’s the promotional bottles of shochu, plus brandies in decorative decanters, and everything in between. Have a browse and you’ll feel like you’re looking through your globetrotting grandfather’s liquor cabinet.
The range changes constantly, but the shop always seems to have a large selection of cheap miniature (50ml-60ml) spirit bottles, often including famous Scotch and Japanese single malt whiskies. They’re an excellent, affordable way to get a taste of top-shelf tipples without blowing a hole in your bank account. If you can’t decide, go for one of the mixed sets of six or eight random mini bottles – they make a great lucky dip gift for the drinker who has everything.