The emergency is over (officially) in the Tokyo area, so here’s a catch-up on drink-related features and news to celebrate, from coffee to the harder stuff:
- Japan’s traditional kissaten and coffee shops are no strangers to social change. COVID-19 is pushing shops to go digital and their customers to frequent overlooked local cafes. As Spencer Cohen and Tommaso Barbetta report, these two seemingly contradictory phenomena — digital and local — have been something of a silver lining for coffee culture across Japan.
- Sapporo Holdings is planning to set up a brewery in the U.S. by the end of 2024, as the top-selling Japanese beer in the American market seeks to expand its market share and cut costs, Bloomberg reports. But Sapporo really should brush up on its English spelling beforehand, as American consumers may not be as forgiving as Japanese lagar drinkers were in January.
- A little heat can coax beguiling hidden aromas and flavors from certain styles of sake, writes Melinda Joe in Kanpai Culture. Gone are the days when hot sake implied poor quality — always a misconception anyway — and kanzake is finally taking pride of place at the socially distanced dinner table.
- Four of SG Group’s outlets in Tokyo and Shanghai are ranked on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, but does its new effort in Shibuya, SG Low, meet the same standard? Well, “the overall effect is that of a speakeasy-style izakaya, filtered through the aesthetic of a Wes Anderson movie,” writes Joe.
- Staying in Tokyo, Bar Virtu’s spring-inspired cocktail lineup is the excuse you need to glam up and escape the humdrum of stay-home life, writes Joe. The design concept explores the link between Paris and Tokyo — two cities renowned for their cocktail culture — and the space is organized around seven virtues, ranging from mercy (lighter drinks) to bravery ( harder stuff).