Gen Yamamoto - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Gen Yamamoto

Less a bar than a tea ceremony with booze, Gen Yamamoto is the eponymous parlor of a man who has wowed the bartending world without making what most experts would consider cocktails. Reservations are essential and will get you a two-hour window in which he’ll serve you either four or six drinks, all in small pours (you won’t leave wasted). You will share the small bar with five other people at most, and the only sound in the minimalist space will be Yamamoto muddling and droplets of water falling in a decorative fountain. There is no food, nothing to distract from the drinks. Yamamoto likes to muddle in-season fruit and blend it with just one unusual spirit, such as pear with an ume shochu that was aged in French oak. “I realize people do cocktails with many ingredients but I like it when they’re simple,” Yamamoto says. “It’s the same as art. When I go to the museum, I like simple art.” He also stirs most drinks. “Shaking for most is performance. They don’t need to, but it looks hard.” But simple doesn’t mean predictable: When sweet potato was in season, one standout drink was Domaine Boingnères Bas Armagnac 1984 with roasted, muddled sweet potato and chocolate shavings.

1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Anniversary Building 1F, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Cocktail Bar

W. Blake Gray lived in Tokyo for eight years before moving to San Francisco, where he became an award-winning wine and spirits journalist. He is the US Editor for Wine Searcher and runs the Gray Report blog. He still travels to Tokyo frequently to drink and eat and drink.

This story appears in the print issue of April 2018.
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