Explore strategies to maximize value while ordering drinks at bars and izakayas in Japan.

Explore strategies to maximize value while ordering drinks at bars and izakayas in Japan.

When ordering a drink at a bar or izakaya in Japan, there are a few tips to ensure you get a high-quality, authentically Japanese drink.

Firstly, I recommend opting for a tapped beer or a bottled beer from Japanese brands like Sapporo, Kirin, or Asahi. These are readily available and typically good quality. If you see a tap on the counter or someone pouring beer from a tank, they offer draft beer, or “Nama-Bi-ru” in Japanese. These beers are fresh and offer a great taste. If draft beer isn’t available, you can still request a bottled beer. The quality might not be as good, but it should still be satisfactory.

After beer, you might want to try Shochu, a hard liquor made primarily from potatoes, wheat, or rice. Potato Shochu has a robust flavor that might be too strong for some, but if you enjoy peaty whisky, you might like it. Rice or wheat Shochu is milder and easier to drink. Shochu is popular in bars and izakayas in Japan and is often served with ice, soda, water, or even green tea.

You might notice that I didn’t mention Japanese sake or Yamazaki or Suntory whisky. This is because enjoying good sake requires specific knowledge, and the quality can vary drastically. A good sake can elevate your experience, but a bad one can ruin it. If you want to try good sake without risking a bad hangover, I recommend seeking advice on places that serve good sake. Unfortunately, I can’t provide any specific recommendations as I’m not a sake enthusiast myself.

As for whiskies, Japanese whiskies from Suntory or Nikka are highly sought after but are often unavailable. You can ask for a high-ball, which is whisky with soda, but it’s not guaranteed which type of whisky they use unless it’s explicitly stated. Since the definition of “Japanese whisky” is quite broad, it can include whiskies made with imported ingredients.

In conclusion, the best way to enjoy a good drink in Japan is to find a reputable bar and trust the bartender’s recommendations. It’s more about the experience and the relationship with the establishment rather than chasing specific brands. Trends and tastes are constantly evolving, so it’s better to immerse yourself in the local scene rather than sticking to dated guidebooks.

The standing bar, Kiraku in Shimbashi, offers a good deal on many interesting drinks.


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