Gen Yamamoto Cocktail Bar, Azabu Juban
Tokyo's Best Hidden Cocktail Gems
The days that I choose a cocktail over a glass of wine are fewer and farther between recently. But after an evening of Gen Yamamoto’s tantalizing cocktails in his cozy, wood decorated tasting bar just off the main shopping street in Azabu Juban, the tide may be turning.
Gen Yamamoto is a seasoned bartender who, after spending several years in New York, has started his own cocktail bar here in Tokyo. The chic, low-key bar is tucked away on a side street in Azabu Juban and snugly seats eight people. The walls are painted with muted tones and the ambiance is quiet. A sprawling recovered oak wood bar, behind which Gen stands, takes center stage. You can choose from a four- (¥4,300) or six-cocktail (¥6,000) tasting menu, and then simply sit back and watch Gen create (à la carte cocktails are also available).
Gen features fresh, local, seasonal and heirloom fruits and vegetables, as well as exciting herbs and spices to zest and flavor the cocktails exquisitely. He handpicks his liquor, typically from either Japan or European countries, with an exotic and esoteric flair—this is not your typical grocery store selection. All drinks are prepared in front of you so you can witness the fresh, pure creativity of his skill. He serves each drink on a high gloss glass tray with a flower sprig as garnish. Gen’s creations are a treat for all of your senses.
My girlfriend and I decided on the four cocktail tasting. The first cocktail was summery and fresh, a Spanish gin called Xoriguer mixed with Japanese sansho peppercorns, shiso leaf and ginger from Kochi. The second was beautifully colored by plum from Amami island, blended with purple potato sweet shochu from Kagoshima and topped with another kind of pepper called hibachi.
The third cocktail took us in a more fruity direction, mixing ume (plum) infused with a Yamasaki twelve years aged whiskey and passion fruit from Okinawa.
Finally, we sealed the deal with a dessert inspired shaved ice cocktail combining summer orange yuzu pulp and watermelon with sweet potato shochu. The shochu was a World Cup special edition, just in time for the 2014 opening ceremonies.
Gen Yamamoto offers truly a unique cocktail tasting experience. It is a fabulous kick-off or aperitif to an evening out. Gen is an innovative mixologist with great descriptions of his creations and conversation to boot.
Address: 1-6-4 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Open: Tue-Sun, 3 p.m.-midnight (Sun until 11 p.m.)