Beautiful design bar doubles as showcase for premium Japanese spirits
For a number of years, Bacchus Global has quietly imported top spirits from Japan and distributed them to Japanese bars and restaurants around town. Now Bacchus wants you to get a better understanding of those bottles of Yamazaki, Hibiki, and Ichiro you’ve seen on the shelves at your favourite izakaya.
“Japan has very good spirits,” says Koji Hara, Managing Director of Bacchus Global, “but they’re not well-promoted.” Enter Salon du Japonisant. The bar, low-key and about as Japanese as it gets in terms of interior design, is hidden in plain sight, next door to Hanakaruta on a Sukhumvit Soi 39 sidestreet.
The bar is something of a personal project for Hara, and the man knows his Japanese spirits. He’s a sake master and sommelier, and he’s been on enough tasting trips to Japan to witness the changes going on in the country. He estimates there are about 1,000 sake breweries now, and lately he’s been seeing spirit makers breaking out of the traditional mould: craft gin, whisky aged in shochu barrels, shochu aged in whisky barrels.
At Salon du Japonisant, these spirits and more are available by the glass or the bottle. This includes a pretty solid selection of Junmai Daiginjo (“A-list”) sake, such as Mizubasho Pure from Gunma Prefecture (B1,980 730ml/B990 360ml) and the wonderful Ohmine (B3,200 730ml/B800 160ml), which is brewed from the chosen waters of Benten Pond and features a fruity, peach-like flavour. Mizubasho also makes champagne, of all things, which you can try here.
But a better way to explore the flavours of the Japanese islands is to order a cocktail or three. Prepared by Kei Sawada—bartender, turned Bacchus employee, turned bartender again—the drinks highlight the scents and tastes that make Japanese spirits so sought-after.
Sawada has largely stuck to the classics. Try a Gin & Tonic (B380). Here, it’s made with Ki No Bi Kyoto Gin, a distillery that produces its gin using a handful of Japanese botanicals, such as sakura, sanshō (Japanese pepper), matcha, and yuzu. Topped off with Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic, the gin’s spicier tasting notes come through, balanced by its light, floral aroma.
The Japanese take on a classic Old Fashioned, meanwhile, comes in a range of options, but the most interesting might be the Roasted Bancha (B430). Featuring a base of Suntory Chita whisky, Earl Grey bitters, lemon, and brown sugar syrup, the cocktail gets a heady twist with the addition of roasted bancha, or old green tea leaves.
If you prefer something fruitier, the Mojito (B380) is a good choice. Sawada uses mint- and brown sugar-infused shochu as its base instead of rum. He also serves it with an almost literal forest of mint leaves garnish: proof that as cool and classy as the bar may be, you can roll up your sleeves here.
By Craig Sauers
Salon du Japonisant
36/5, Sukhumvit Soi 39
Open: Mon-Sat, 6:30pm-midnight
Tel: 083 019 9062