Tokyo has become famous for out-of-the-way cocktail bars that display unparalleled precision. Many friends recommended Gen Yamamoto, a bar on aside street in Tokyo’s Azabu-Juban district from a bartender by the same name, and the experience more than delivered.
Gen Yamamoto allows reservations for just eight seats at his oak slab bar, making every drink, resulting in an intimate experience. The Tokyo native debuted in 2012 and previously ran bar programs for Japanese restaurants in New York City. He often sources ingredients straight from farms and builds his progressive menu (4 or 6 cocktails) around the Japanese concept of “shiki,” seasonality. The main man said guests should expect “different ingredients, but sometimes it’s the same ingredient, but a different cocktail as part of the progression.”
I enjoyed all four cocktails during my tasting, as well as the exacting ritual of this spirited one-man-band, but left most impressed with his Granny Smith apple cocktail. He sourced this apple from Nagano, favoring two qualities in this varietal “tart and good acidity.” The apple’s scored and grated, muddle-strained and paired with a barley-based spirit, shochu from an island I can’t identify. Ice cubes are shaped with pinpoint knife hacks. A barspoon float of sencha green tea and sprinkle of tea leaf completes the aromatic cocktail.
When you visit Gen Yamamoto, you’ll surely receive cocktails that display just as much balance and thought, though there’s a good chance you won’t find this exact drink.