High Five

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

By Nicholas Coldicott

HIDETSUGU UENO FINALLY HAS A BAR that befits his reputation. Japan’s most famous maker of cocktails spent seven and a half years muddling and mixing in a little room next to an establishment in which the staff all dressed as bunny rabbits.

Late last year he migrated a few blocks east to a sumptuously appointed basement lounge. Where he once had bunnies, he now has a Hermes flagship store designed by Renzo Piano. New High Five is much longer and much more gorgeous, with twice as many whiskies and twice as many workers.

But all the things that made the first bar so famous are there at the new joint. You’ll still find an ambiance that perfectly balances formality and fun. And you’ll still find Ueno and head bartender Kaori Kurakami, a Diageo World Class Japan champion, mixing impossibly good classics and riffs on those classics.

These days you’ll also find a gaggle of young apprentices, from at least three continents, all dressed in the house style of braces and half aprons. Where else would an international crew go to learn the intricacies of Ginza-style bartending?

They’ll find out why you should shake egg whites and fresh fruit drinks in a small plastic shaker. They’ll learn which drinks demand a curvier shaker and which work better in something angular. They might even learn to carve ice into diamonds, though nobody goes to High Five for that anymore. They go for that special blend of drinks and hospitality. And now they can get it in a big, posh room.