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Share a premium cocktail with man’s best friend

by Angela Erika Kubo

Bar Black Sheep is a gem hidden in the middle of Shibuya for those who want to drink premium cocktails without having to empty their wallet. Customers are first greeted by the owner’s dog, an adorable Shiba Inu that goes by the name Hana-chan and enjoys a pat on the head while you sip on the bar’s original cocktails.

The best thing on the menu: frozen cocktails, blended with whatever fruits are in season and priced at only ¥1,000. On my recent visit, Harada serves up a mixture of fresh strawberries, vodka, cassis liquor and a hint of lime juice in a martini glass.

“It has no name. We just make up the cocktails,” says owner Yota Harada when asked what the drink is called. “It’s just embarrassing to have a name.

“One of the reasons why I started this bar is because there weren’t many places I wanted to go to in Tokyo,” says Harada, who switches between Japanese and crisp British English with me. “I wanted to start the kind of bar where you can pop in after work without spending too much.”

OK, ¥900 or ¥1,000 a drink isn’t exactly cheap by Shibuya standards, but Bar Black Sheep serves cocktails made with premium alcohol that rival those at any high-class Ginza cocktail bar — without a table charge or an exorbitant bill at the end. The bar also provides free snacks such as potato chips to wash down with your drink.

“We put a lot of care into mixing our drinks,” says Naoki Tobe, one of the bartenders.

Rather than using juice from cartons, the bartenders freshly squeeze oranges and grapefruits for superior screwdrivers and greyhounds. The soda water and ginger ale also comes out of glass bottles, which tastes much better than soda dispensed out of a bar gun.

Harada also isn’t stingy. Like every other drinker in Tokyo, nothing irritates him more than a drink that’s weak. Everything he mixes is served with double shots of liquor.

“I like to experiment with making cocktails. It’s a bit boring looking in the recipe book and making something that’s not special,” he says. Despite only two years of bartending experience under his belt, Harada can invent something fruity for those with a sweet tooth or something sour for those who want a kick.

The bar is a bit hard to locate for first-timers, but if you look for the back exit to electronics department store Labi, just off Shibuya’s Dogenzaka strip, you’ll find it next door.

Many customers visit the bar just to pay a visit to Harada’s cute dog, Hana-chan, who can be seen sitting at the bar or lying in her bed in the corner every night.

“For me, being with a dog is a normal thing,” says Harada, who jokes that he finds it annoying that the dog has been the main attraction for his business.

Nonetheless, if you find yourself heading to Bar Black Sheep without a drinking buddy, at least it’s comforting to know that you’ll have man’s best friend beside you as you nurse your drink.

Wakatsuki Bldg. 2F, 2-29-13 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03-3496-7330; open 7 p.m.-1 a.m. weekdays, till late Sat.; closed Sun. Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.