Tokyos best bars

The best places for cocktails, craft beer, wine, saké and more

Tokyo’s best bars

Best hotel cocktail bar

Bar a Vins Tateru Yoshino
Tokyo has other, more famous hotel bars, but few of them have a bartender to rival Takayuki Suzuki. The suave cocktail conjurer who holds court most evenings at the 25th floor Bar a Vins Tateru Yoshino prides himself in his ability to pick the right tipple for each customer – so much so that he's even written a book on the subject. And if you're more of a hard liquor person, you're in luck: the bar shares its premises with the first official Japan outpost of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, with single cask bottlings galore. Read more

Best salaryman standing bar

Fujiya Honten
There's never much risk of running up an outrageous tab at Fujiya Honten. Customers at this basement standing bar – a venerable boozer that was first established over 130 years ago – simply plonk down the amount of money they've budgeted for the night on the counter, and the staff deduct from it accordingly as each order arrives. Join the salarymen crowded around the open kitchen, bathe in the aroma of the deep-fat fryer and order up some Hoppy and shochu: the sensible option for a retro drinking session. Read more

Best bar for saké beginners

An excellent place to start any expedition into the world of Japanese saké, Sasagin more than merits a special trip to Yoyogi-Uehara. Overseen by an Anglophone sommelier with an immaculately trimmed 'tache, this izakaya comes armed with a well-chosen selection of nihonshu (and yes, they've got English menus). The daily food specials are only available in Japanese and may take a while to decipher, but dishes like vinegared mackerel and pear with mullet roe, and watercress and shiso dressed with pureed tofu, more than reward the effort. Read more

Best neighbourhood wine bar

Ahiru Store
Tomigaya, Shibuya
Everybody's favourite secret wine bar, Ahiru Store's reputation has far outstripped the size of its premises. Located at the far end of Tomigaya, this dinky corner bar is managed by a sibling tag-team: sommelier Teruhiko Saito picks the list of natural wines, predominantly French and many from little-known producers, while sister Wakako bakes the (superb) rustic bread and oversees the food. Just be prepared to fight your way in: Ahiru Store only takes reservations until 6.30pm at the latest, and it's not unusual to see hungry customers queueing patiently outside during the evening. Read more

Best Japanese whisky haven

If it's Japanese whisky you want, Zoetrope is the place to head. Run by a hardcore cinephile, this intimate, dimly lit bar boasts a collection of bottles that's unrivalled anywhere else in the city; there are 300 varieties on offer, many of which are no longer even on the market. Whisky geeks will relish the chance to sample rare bottlings from the likes of Mercian and up-and-coming distillery Venture Whisky, while beginners can start with a sampler set of choice malts from big dogs Suntory and Nikka. Read more

Best bar for gazing at the Skytree

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon Restaurant & Bar
Kaminarimon, Asakusa
It's taken a surprisingly long time for word to spread about the bar and restaurant at Asakusa's The Gate Hotel Kanarimon – maybe because everybody who's been there so far was hoping to keep the place to themselves. The menu of bistro-style French grub is surprisingly good value, while you can have a proper G&T for a not-unreasonable ¥1,000 a pop. But it's the scenery that really ought to be luring the crowds here: whether you're gazing from behind the floor-to-ceiling windows or sat out on the terrace, you can enjoy one of the best vistas that eastern Tokyo has to offer, crowned by an uninterrupted view of Tokyo Skytree. Read more

Best all-night rum den

A word of warning about this specialist rum bar in Nishi-Azabu: once you surrender to its charms, it's awfully easy to end up missing your last train home. Tafia stays open until 4.30am, though you'll need longer than that to sample even a fraction of the drinks on offer, some of them nigh-on impossible to get anywhere else. If the spirits leave you sufficiently emboldened, you could also try some of the house speciality, a fierce curry made with Bhut Jolokia chili – just the thing to pep you up towards the end of a marathon drinking session. Read more

Best natural wine bistro

Tokyo's first bar to specialise in natural wines is still one of its best. Shonzui opened in 1993, and its combination of unusual plonk, hearty French nosh and a relaxed, convivial atmosphere have made it a popular spot on the Roppongi circuit ever since. Owner Shinsaku Katsuyama is revered in Japanese wine circles, but he doesn't seem to have let the adulation get to him: there's no snobbishness here (and trust us: we looked for it), while the prices are far from outrageous. Read more

Best for seasonal cocktails

At a basement location just a minute's walk from Shibuya Station, award-winning bartender Shinobu Ishigaki wields an array of fresh fruit and vegetables to create his distinctive cocktails: a gin and tonic is enlivened with kumquat, a margherita gets an injection of housemade cassis confiture, and there are entire menus devoted to fruity mojitos and martinis. The quality is generally top-notch, and first-time visitors should find the atmosphere considerably less intimidating than at Ginza's high-end cocktail temples. Read more

Best ¥300 mojitos

Havana Cafe
One of Roppongi's more enduring expat hotspots, Havana Cafe serves good mojitos and some decent Tex-Mex grub, with a kitchen that stays open until 4am. Best of all is the daily happy hour from 5-7pm, when many cocktails go for ¥100, and even a mojito or bottle of Corona costs just ¥300. It'd be good value for money wherever you were – but in the middle of one of Tokyo's priciest nightlife districts, it's an absolute steal. Read more

Best Scandinavian hipster hangout

Fuglen Tokyo
Tomigaya, Shibuya
A favourite of international style bible Monocle, the original Fuglen in Oslo, Norway is a blend of café, cocktail bar and vintage design boutique, where even the furniture is up for sale. Its Tokyo shop transplants the concept to a backstreet corner not far from Yoyogi Park, selling tea and some remarkably good coffee during the daytime. It switches to bar mode in the evenings, with Japanese and Norwegian craft beers and a menu of cocktails devised by champion bartender Halvor Digernes. And yes, you can buy the furniture too. Read more

Best craft beer bar

The number one destination for Tokyo beer geeks actually started life as a Western-style izakaya. Popeye's transformation into a specialist craft beer bar has been slow but spectacular: it now boasts an unrivalled 70 beers on tap, all kept in impeccable condition and most of them produced by Japanese breweries. There's table seating for groups, but the most fun to be had is at the bar, where the friendly and knowledgable staff entice drinkers with unfamiliar tipples. Read more

Best upmarket cantina

From the orange stone walls to the snifters and sangritas, basement bar Agave is a perfect replica of an upmarket Mexican cantina in all ways but two: few cantinas stock 400 varieties of tequila and mescal, and no joint in Mexico would charge so much for them. With single measures costing from ¥800 to an impressive ¥9,400, this is the only place in Roppongi where customers don’t hurl their cactus juice straight down their throats. Read more

Best old-school watering hole

Kamiya Bar
Established in the late 1800s, Kamiya is something of a legend. It’s the oldest western-style bar in Tokyo and one of the friendliest to boot. The crowds certainly don’t come here for the decor (think Formica tables and too-bright lighting), but the raucous atmosphere is typical of this working-class neighbourhood. Try the house Denki Bran (Electric Brandy), a sweet blend of wine, gin and brandy that’s a lot nicer than it sounds. Read more

Best place for a quick beer

Brimmer Beer Box
Brimmer Brewing has been the talk of the craft beer scene since it started production in early 2012, but its tiny Omotesando shop still seems to be off most people's radars. More tasting room than bar, it's a perfect place to escape to during an Aoyama shopping spree. Brimmer's staple Pale Ale, Porter and Golden Ale are all available on tap, plus a seasonal special, and can be had individually or in a sampler set for the rock-bottom price of ¥500. Read more

Best British pub

The Aldgate
Of all the so-called 'gaijin pubs' in Tokyo, The Aldgate is one of the only ones that feels like somewhere we'd actually want to visit back in the UK. It certainly acts the part, from the cozy dark wood panelling to the no-smoking policy to the sarcastic notices advising customers on the fees levied for having sex in the toilets. There are around twenty beers on tap, with regulars like Old Speckled Hen, Yona Yona Real Ale and Baird IPA jostling alongside a selection of guest tipples from American, Japanese and British microbreweries. Good music, too. Read more

Best illicit street boozer

Shokuyasu Shoten
The lack of such niceties as tables, chairs and toilets hasn't stopped this from becoming a popular spot for Yurakucho's office workers. After all, it's home to that most endangered of urban species: the beer vending machine. A 500ml can of Asahi Super Dry will cost you ¥320, but why not flash your cash and get a bottle of wine (¥1,200) instead? Good views of Bic Camera and the JR line, and you may even spot a journalist or two – the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan is just across the street. Read more

Best bar of the bizarre

Bonji Bar
Keep wandering past Asakusa's moribund Hanayashiki amusement park and you'll find this most curious of bars. An austere, warehouse-style exterior leads into a room littered with ethnic instruments, hookah pipes and paraphernalia adorned with sanskrit text (known as 'bonji' in Japanese, hence the name). The generously tattooed owner has some unusual tipples to go with the shisha, including cannabis vodka, ginseng brandy and a few dubious concoctions that he's prepared himself – fancy some peyotl-enhanced tequila or shochu infused with panther cap mushrooms? Read more

Best bar with a view

Bar & Lounge Majestic
The solid glass floor-to-ceiling windows of this swanky bar, 215 metres above the ground in Shiodome, give spectacular views of the cityscape and Tokyo Tower. Bar & Lounge Majestic is part of the Fish Bank Tokyo restaurant, and the seafood options on the food menu (oysters included) are surprisingly good value. If you can get there before 7pm, the 'Majestic Sunset Plan' offers two hours of free-flowing drinks for ¥3,000 a head – perfect if you're looking to impress a date on a tight budget. Read more

By Time Out writers
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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