High Five

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Efflore Ginza 5 Bldg. BF 5-4-15 Ginza Chuo-ward, 104-0061 Tokyo

By Nicholas Coldicott

When you see a customer drinking Piña Coladas in High Five, there’s a fair chance they watched owner Hidetsugu Ueno’s appearance on Mind of a Chef. If they’re drinking a White Lady, perhaps they saw him on Booze Traveler. Either way, they’ll be surprised when they walk through the door. The tiny fourth-floor cubbyhole that appeared in those shows is a thing of the past.

Everything’s changed about High Five in the past 12 months, except the things that matter. It has a new address, a different look, more seats, more bottles and more bartenders, but you’ll still find Ueno and head bartender Kaori Kurakami turning out classics and inspired riffs on classics, and that’s why it remains one of the World’s 50 Best Bars.

Take the Bellinis – voluptuous in texture and deep coral in colour. You’ll think there’s grenadine in the mix, but there isn’t. They get that hue by using only the reddest Akatsuki peaches from Fukushima Prefecture with pink champagne. And they stir them like you’ve never seen a Bellini stirred before – repeatedly hooking the mixture with a little spoon in a plastic beaker. “A Bellini isn’t about the bubbles,” Ueno says, and if you try one of his, you’d have to agree.

But if you want one, you’ll need to wait until July when those deep red peaches are in season again. In the meantime you can have the I-never-knew-it-could-taste-like-this experience with almost any of the classics. And if you fancy a Japanese whisky for a nightcap, there aren’t many bars with a better collection.