Where to sip on sakura this hanami season

by Angela Erika Kubo

While sakura are definitely a beautiful sight, their subtle flavor can also be enjoyed in a cocktail. ANA Intercontinental Tokyo (1-12-33 Akasaka, Minato-ku; 03-3505-1111; www.anaintercontinental-tokyo.jp) in Akasaka is among the best places in the capital to find such a creation.

The champagne bar on the hotel’s third floor boasts a series of cherry-blossom-flavored cocktails, each ¥2,160. You can try the sakura mojito, a spring twist to a popular summer cocktail that contains sakura liqueur and cranberry juice instead of the usual white rum. You could also have a glass of champagne with a dollop of sakura syrup; the drink is garnished with a twig from a cherry-blossom tree, which if you’re lucky might be sprouting a few (edible) petals.

Finally, there’s the spring breeze, a cocktail containing umeshu (plum wine), grapefruit and cranberry juice. The bartender finishes off the drink with a spray of sakura-based liqueur, which gives off a light spring scent reminiscent of sitting under a canopy of pink.

Unfortunately, the bar doesn’t have a view of the nearby Sakurazaka, which literally means Sakura Hills. The road looks like a pink tunnel when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. At least you can enjoy the 150 trees that grow there while you walk over to the hotel to quench your thirst. At night the trees are lit up, making the area perfect for a romantic nighttime stroll after a round of drinks.

Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa’s Asama Main Bar (3-13-1 Takanawa, Minato-ku; 03-3447-1139; www.princehotels.co.jp/newtakanawa) is also celebrating the hanami (flower-viewing party) season with sakura-themed cocktails that look just as beautiful as the cherry blossoms they were inspired by. The bar offers 12 cocktails, at ¥1,450 each, some of them twists on famous drinks — such as the sakura margarita or the sakura daiquiri. Just like the blossoms, these cocktails won’t be around for very long: They’re available until April 13.

If a hotel is a bit too upscale for you, but you still want to drink somewhere nice, spend your evening at Bar 5517 (B1F Mikasa Kaikan Honten, 5-5-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku; 03-3289-5676; www.mikasakaikan.co.jp) in Ginza. The bar has two sakura cocktails to choose from: a champagne-based drink called Sakura, Sakura (¥1,680) after the traditional Japanese folk song, and a cherry-blossom version of James Bond’s signature vodka martini (¥1,470) that has sakura petals floating on the surface.

If you want to see actual cherry blossoms but without the hassle of rushing to a popular hanami area to save a spot, Nakameguro, where the entire street leading from the station is lined with hundreds of cherry blossom trees, is the best place to go. At Hanabi (2-16-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku; 03-5456-4404; www.hanabi-nakame.jp) you can view the sakura from within the bar and choose from 100 different liquors to enjoy. Akira (1-10-23 Nakameguro, Meguro-ku; 03-3793-0051) offers a prime view of the cherry blossoms along the Meguro River.

Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.