I used to think I was a food tourists, but now that I’ve completed my fourth trip to Japan, I realize I’m slowly turning each trip into some sort of whiskey and spirits pilgrimage. The spirits in this country are so high quality and cheap, especially in comparison to Thailand, it’s easy to go overboard on a night out, or drink yourself silly at home. Today I want to introduce you to one of Japan’s many extraordinary bars, Osaka’s Bar K.
Precise cocktail making takes center stage under the small spotlight above the center of the bar
The bar is located in the basement of a busy business and nightlife district, walking distance from Umeda. To find it takes a little searching between the bikes flying by, drunken salarymen, and frequent pockets of nightclub recruiters. Like all of the hard to find bars I plan to post from my time in Japan, the discovery of them well outweighs the anxiety of the search. Bar K has been building a whiskey collection and serving serious cocktails for nearly thirty years. When you enter, you immediately get the sense you’ve made an important discovery, as you examine the inviting mahogany enshrined room, and the stern faces of impeccably dressed bartenders.
A beautiful Japanese old fashioned cocktail enhanced with local hinoki wood smoke
Don’t worry, the stern faces make way for lighter conversation as the evening matures. There is an English menu, but I disregarded most of the drinks instead ordering an old fashioned made with Japanese whiskey. Deciding which whiskey to use was easy since both the Yamazaki and the Hakushu (Suntory’s domestically sold green bottle with whiskey distilled in the hills of the Yamanashi prefecture) single malts were already on display on the bar. I thought the Hakushu would be interesting, especially since I had only first tasted the whiskey a few weeks before at the Yamanashi distillery. To give the cocktail a truly local flavor and bring out some of the smoke in the 12 year old Hakushu, the whiskey was smoked using a local Japanese wood called hinoki. The final concoction was poured over an immaculately hand carved ice cube and garnished with an orange slice.
The beautifully hand sculpted ice cubes alone could tell the story of this classic bar located in metropolitan Osaka
I could have hung out at Bar K until the early morning, if my budget permitted. I tried to sip slow to savour my cocktails, and ordered some of their dried fruit to distract myself from rubber necking every drink served. I finished the evening by requesting a cocktail called The Last Word, a mix of gin, chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and fresh lime juice.
Dried fruit, the making of The Last Word Cocktail, and a photo of the finished product
When you visit Bar K, you may imagine you’re in a classy, early American, post-prohibition era bar.But I definitely don’t mean the one night only Gatsby party or the latest speakeasy themed bar in your gentrified, hipster neighborhood. There are high bar stools, plush looking chairs, and other carefully placed antiques around the room. All of this gives you a comforting sense of this destination bar’s maturity, without being kitschy. The finely curated details set the scene for enjoying expert cocktail making and a fine selection aged spirits any enthusiastic newbie or whiskey nerd would enjoy!
BAR K LOCATION AND HOURS
Address: 〒530-0002 大阪市北区曽根崎新地1-3-3 好陽ビル B1F
Directions: Fortunately the bar has been in Osaka’s scene for a while, so there’s a permanent Google Maps location. However, once you reach the area it can be difficult to find because of how concentrated the area is with buildings full of bars, restaurants, and clubs. My best advice is as you wonder the street be on the lookout for either the places with steps leading down to basement level establishments. From there look for the “Bar K” signage.
Public Transportation: There are several stations in the area, Kita Shinchi is the closest, and Umeda Station is about 10 minutes away (walking).
Phone number: +816-6343-1167
Hours: 6pm-2am Weekday, 6pm-12am Saturdays, Closed on Sunday
Price Range: 1200 – 2000 yen ($10-$16) on average per drink