Tokyo Takeover: Give Me All Your Beer and Bourbon

Look, it's no secret that I love whisk(e)y, craft beer and good pub food so yes, of course, I've got some recommendations for Tokyo. 

Ant'N Bee

This small basement bar tucked away in Roppongi doesn't seem like much until you're presented with the twenty tap beer list divided into lagers, weizens, hybrids, ales, black beers and "strong" all from Japanese breweries. Beers can be ordered in four sizes, so you don't have to commit to something you don't know you love, except for the strong beers which only come in small because, well, they're strong. The taps rotate but my favorite while we were there was the "Maitai King", a 12.7% Imperial Stout that wasn't messing around. My preference is for dark beers and I was very happy with the number of porters and stouts available when we went, not something I get to say often.

Along with a long beer list, they also have a pretty extensive and varied food menu. More people than I would've expected were ordering some of the Italian specialties but we played it safe and went with Japanese pub classics karaage (fried chicken) and house pickles. I'm not saying it doesn't exist but I've never had bad fried chicken in Japan and this was no exception, crispy on the outside and hot and steamy on the inside, these were the perfect bite size morsels to go with beer. The potatoes that come with are hand cut and also fried to a golden perfection. We had both the regular house pickles (daikon, lotus root and carrots) and the seasonal special (pickled leaks with balsamic) and they were both delicious. My one complaint is that theoretically this bar has "smoking" and "non-smoking" areas but it's so small it doesn't really matter. Unfortunately indoor smoking is just part of traveling in Japan.

Ant'N Bee is located at 5 Chome-1-5 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (basement level) and is open 5:00pm-6:00am 365 days a year (yep). You can find out more on their facebook page or website.

Craftheads

Wait, if this bar is called Craftheads, why are those pictures of bourbon? Well, my friends, this place does happen to have a good number of taps but THIS is the bourbon selection:

I know, I'm sorry, it was dark and I took these pictures with my phone but trust me when I say this is three rows, three or four bottles deep of bourbon. Not scotch, not Japanese whisky, not Irish whisky, just beautiful beautiful American bourbons and ryes. For those not in the know, good bourbon is nearly impossible to find outside of the US, except for one liquor store in Bratislava (true story) and Japan. After all, Suntory is really Beam Suntory these days (along with Jim, this also means Maker's Mark, Basil Hayden's and Knob Creek) and Kirin owns my favorite underrated whiskey, Four Roses. Along with more types of Four Roses than I even knew existed they also had a full line up from Buffalo Trace Distillery (Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Blantons and of course, PAPPY) so basically every one of the three pours I had that evening was an agonizing decision but I left pretty happy and I can't wait to take Dan there on our next trip to Tokyo.

Here we had delicious perfectly fried onion rings with a spicy mayo and more house pickles. I will always order the house pickles and I have yet to ever regret that decision.

Crafteads is located at 1 Chome-13-10 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0041, Japan. They are open Tues-Fri 5PM-Midnight, Saturday 3PM-11PM and Sunday 3PM-10PM. You can find out more information on their website.

Looking for more mouthwatering food pics? Check out my new food only insta @runawaybunnyeats
 

The Libertine


One of the things that never really occurred to me leaving America was how difficult it would be to get a decent cocktail. Sure, I knew my bourbon selection would probably be limited to overpriced Jack and Jim and I'd have to adjust my standards, drinking habits and expected price point for alcohol, but the other week Dan ordered a Scotch and soda from a pretty average bar, with English speaking staff, and got what we think was a Scotch and tonic. Scotch and tonic is maybe the worst drink known to mankind. I'd rather drink something made with Malibu. Yes, I said it, I would rather drink something made with alcoholic suntan lotion, than ever have to try a Scotch and tonic again. In Istanbul, at our fancy hotel rooftop bar, where we were charged TWENTY FOUR DOLLARS to have our drinks made with Bulleit, they SHOOK the life out of Dan's Manhattan and I'm not even sure my Old Fashioned had alcohol in it. They both primarily tasted like melted, dirty ice. I've had two Scotch Old Fashioneds since getting here and one was fine and one was just awful. I'm not opposed to a Scotch Old Fashioned, my favorite drink in the world might be The Campfire at Amor y Amargo (it's not actually on the menu, but go ask for one, you'll thank me later) but you can't just throw a lemon peel and a dash of bitters in a Scotch and soda and go charging somebody $18 like it's an actual Old Fashioned.

You cannot imagine how excited I was when I walked into The Libertine and saw that their drink menu had an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, a Whiskey Sour (with an egg white!) and a Boulevardier. If you had to ask me my top four cocktails, these would be them. They also have the widest and most reasonably priced selection of Bourbon I've seen in Seoul. They charged me one dollar, ONE DOLLAR, extra for having my Old Fashioned made with Buillet instead of the well whiskey (Jim Beam Black). I think Dan got charged a whopping two dollars extra for his Manhattan made with Rittenhouse. Look at that beautiful thing! Just one large globe of ice, a twist of the proper fruit, and actually the proper shade of amber instead of the color of the world's saddest, most watered down, ice tea. The service here is not quick but your cocktail is created with care and I have never seen anyone shake a Manhattan.

This is the Whiskey Sour. You can tell by that thick layer of foam on top that it's made the best way, with an egg white. I realize that egg white cocktails are a little gross sounding to most people but, in America, bars are usually using pasteurized whites so your risk of food borne illness is minimal. I have no idea what they do here. I do know that egg whites usually add a creaminess and body to Whiskey Sours that makes them absolutely heavenly and that this cocktail was no exception. (This is where to get my favorite egg white Whiskey Sour in New York)

For food at The Libertine, I recommend the burger. It's a little pricey but is always perfectly medium rare and juicy. We've found the other dinner food and brunch food fine but underwhelming for the price point. If you do go for brunch, they make a solid, classic Bloody Mary.

The Libertine is definitely the place to go when you've had one of those days where you really just need a burger and some Bourbon. (Other people have those days, right?)

It's address is 141-8 Itaewon-dong. I usually take the 405 bus but you can also get there easily by taking the metro to Itaewon Station. Walk South from Itaewon-ro and it will be on your left just before the street turns entirely into antique shops.

My favorite places for a burger and bourbon in New York are The Wren  (the small plates are also fantastic AND I've gotten an industry discount) or, if you're feeling fancy, Prime Meats.