Kanpai for that! Seven Japanese bars to explore in the UK | Japanese craft gin

Botanicals sourced from all over Japan, combined with over a century of distilling tradition, make Roku Gin an ode to Japanese craftsmanship. This gin was meant to be enjoyed amidst the hustle and bustle of Tokyo Izakayaa kind of Japanese tapas bar, or the quiet buzz of a Kyoto soba restaurant with lanterns glowing outside and shoes left at the door.

Fortunately, you don’t have to hop on an 11-hour flight to indulge in Japanese craft gin the way it was meant to be. Over the past few years, Japanese pubs that embrace the izakaya spirit have been popping up all over the UK. Here are seven of the best…

Mikako, Glasgow
Glowing red and white lanterns and a waterfall of pink cherry blossoms welcome you to Mikaku – a bar in central Glasgow designed for late-night Japanese food and drink. Neon lights in the dark create a kind of futuristic, neo-Tokyo feel in the opening scenes of Blade Runner. Inside, a solid list of Izakaya Staples, like yakitori skewers served as if at Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, sit alongside warm bowls of ramen. This combined with the electric lychee cocktail, featuring Roku Gin and plum sake transports you straight to the side streets of Tokyo.

Koi No Yokan, Cardiff
Newly opened Koi No Yokan in Cardiff serves small plates and bento boxes alongside a wide range of Japanese drinks. Black ink ribbon, red lanterns, and painted dragons create this undeniable feeling of being in a late-night dining spot in one of Japan’s bustling cities. The owner, Alexander Taylor, has embraced his desire to serve “flavorful, modern, naughty, Japanese-inspired food,” and indeed, dishes like Nori Fries are the perfect accompaniment to a round of gin-driven cocktails.

Shuzhou Gallery, London
In the subterranean space beneath London’s famous Roka restaurant, in Fitzrovia, Shochu Lounge serves sushi fresh from the sea and Robatayaki (“fireside dishes”) cooked on the grill, to be enjoyed alongside sumptuous Japanese cocktails. A powdery pink cherry blossom decorates the ceiling, vibrant against the ink-black walls. The cocktail selection is a celebration of Japanese flavors – yuzu, ponzu and ginger. Sipping a Roku Gin G&T here, you could easily be in the high-end lounges in Ginza or Roppongi.

Shibuya Underground serves drinks with a story

Shibuya Underground, Birmingham
At Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade, Shibuya Underground – modeled on the intimate bars of Tokyo’s Golden Gai – has a very secretive feel about it. Sake barrels stacked against exposed brick walls let you know all about this place’s true passion: sake. The owner, Samuel Bolton, is a certified brew expert. But the drinks menu has plenty for gin connoisseurs, too – a matcha-infused bar that’s an ode to Kyoto’s tea ceremonies, and of course Roku Gin in house G&Ts. Each mixed drink is presented as a “story,” so you can hear all about Kyoto’s tea ceremonies as you sip on matcha.

Zuma, London
It may be a global brand now, but the original Zuma, in the heart of Knightsbridge, West London, still combines that undeniable buzz of casual izakaya dinner with its refined small plates. Sashimi on ice and crab sticks with wasabi mayonnaise accompany the range of cocktails. Just as with the Roku Gin, Zuma’s ethos is to produce something undeniably contemporary, while respecting the traditions of the past. All about the best Japanese products here; Fresh yellowfin tuna and marbled wagyu meat. Zuma’s gin selection doesn’t deviate from the message, with Roku Gin served in G&Ts as standard.

Ikigai, Birmingham
Ikigai is located in the trendy surroundings of Birmingham’s Jewelery Quarter. The raw wood, white walls, and black calligraphy touches are pure zen, and the ambience, once again, drew inspiration from Japanese izakaya culture—in this case, the cozy chatter of after-work drinks in the hole-in-the-wall restaurants among Tokyo’s towering skyscrapers. It is certainly convenient to the center of Birmingham. Each cocktail on the menu is themed, and Ikigai’s signature blend boasts the citrusy aroma of yuzu and the delicious sweetness of vanilla. Or, instead of choosing from the list, choose File omakase (“I leave it up to you”) And the knowledgeable staff can pair your Roku Gin with Japanese flavors that bring out the subtle sakura, sansho pepper spice, and yuzu peel zing, satisfying your taste preferences. As they say in Japan, bell!

Indoor Chotto Matte Soho Bar booths
Chotto Matte blends Japanese and Peruvian flavours

Shooting Matt, London
Japanese cuisine is loved all over the world, but there are few countries where its flavors have fused so effectively with the local food culture as in Peru. The resulting fusion of flare and flavor is known as Nikkei cuisine. This cool style is the inspiration behind London’s Chotto Matte in Soho, a warehouse-sized bar that aims to replicate the high-end feel of the dining scenes in Tokyo and Lima. Perhaps the best example of this fusion is the wabi-sabi cocktail, where Peruvian Pisco and Roku Gin compete for attention.

Roku is available to buy from Sainsburys

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