City Guide to Tokyo

Ueno has also phased out much of his scotch collection in favour of Japanese whisky, and has a repertoire of cocktails that use the local spirits. He’s been instrumental in spreading the word (and dispelling the myths) about Japanese bartending and, as a Ginza-trained bartender with a detailed knowledge of the global bar scene, he’s the perfect bridge between east and west.

And that gulf between the size of Ueno’s reputation and the size of his bar mean it’s a very good idea to call ahead and check there’s space.

Trench, 1-5-8 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku

Historical cocktails, classics with a twist, bitters galore, faux vintage menus… Trench is an American-style cocktail bar in every sense but its size. It’s a sliver of a room, taller than it is wide, and that’s part of the appeal. You don’t want to be too far from the counter where polyglot bartender Rogerio Igarashi Vaz holds court. Trench pitches itself as an absinthe specialist, and there’s certainly more of La Fée Verte than anyone could possibly need, but that’s not why this tiny spot has elbowed its way on to Tokyo’s must-visit list. 

The drinks are just the right amount of creative, with a menu that changes each season, and Vaz has an instinct for hospitality that means you’ll be as comfortable here on a date as you would be if you came solo or with friends. Once in a while a band plays on what can only be described as a shelf above the bar.

Bar Orchard, 7F, 6-5-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku

At first glance Bar Orchard is quintessential Ginza. The zelkova counter, twinkling jazz and glassware in refrigerated cabinet all suggest you’re in for a night of straight-up classics. But there’s something different happening here. Bartender Takuo Miyanohara, wearing what looks like a butcher’s apron, might make you that classic, or he might reach for the liquid nitrogen, or fire up his bubble machine. 

Ask for a Manhattan and you’ll suspect something got lost in translation when he crumbles cinnamon and orange peel into a glass, then grabs a red wine, some Pernod and caramel syrup. But when
he’s finished, and you take a sip, you realise he’s been building a mock vermouth. 

You can have a Moscow Mule the orthodox way, or one made from vodka infused with ginger, topped with soda and garnished with powdered ginseng. 

His ability to switch effortlessly between traditional and experimental helps to explain why you’ll see 20-somethings, septuagenarians, and everyone in between sitting at the counter.

Mixology Laboratory, 3F, 1-6-1 Yaesu, Chuo-ku

‘Mixology’ is a dirty word in most of Tokyo’s bars, but Shuzo Nagumo has embraced the idea wholeheartedly. In fact, he’s embraced just about every modern bar trope that makes the classicists squirm: his bar is styled on a speakeasy, he barrel-ages, roto-vaps and aromatises, and he uses ingredients as off-the-wall as grilled asparagus, grilled miso, and foie gras in his cocktails.