Established in 2008, High Five has become one of the most respected and popular bars in Japan. Having first appeared in The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2011, it has been voted into every edition since, with its appearance in the 2020 list marking 10 years of setting the standard for exemplary cocktail making among the world’s most decorated venues. This year, it receives the Heering Legend of the List Award as the bar that has performed most consistently in the history of the 50 Best Bars list.
Hidetsugu Ueno, High Five’s founder and bartender, is a true master of the craft and a pioneer of cocktail customisation. The minute bar, located in a basement in the heart of glitzy Ginza, has never had a menu, relying instead on its highly trained bartenders’ skills for getting to know the guests and creating concoctions to suit their personal tastes, often making the most of fresh, seasonal fruits and artisanal Japanese spirits.
High Five has also never had a reservation system – a spot at the bar is the highly prized result of patient waiting, but never disappoints. Ueno, often seen sporting colourful suspenders and a matching tie, and his team have long mastered the art of entertaining guests while mixing and shaking their famous creations, such as the bar’s popular version of the White Lady.
The bar receives fresh ice every day from a local ice factory and Ueno has long been considered a carving master, teaching the art of making ice diamonds – perfect for serving the best whiskey the bar holds – to countless bartenders over the course of his career. The understated elegance and undeniable skill hidden behind High Five’s basement door are worthy of pilgrimage for any cocktail aficionado.
Watch the video and read the 50 Best interview with Hidetsugu Ueno: