Kyoto Drinking Guide

Tokyo is great, but Kyoto is where the party’s at for experiencing Japan’s traditions and history. Voted the world’s #1 city a few times over the past several years, Kyoto is a no-brainer for any tourist looking for culture and craftsmanship. Nestled between the city’s 2000+ temples and shrines are some great bars! Have a quick drink between attractions or unwind after a long day of sightseeing. Today and tonight, we’re drinking in Kyoto.

Our first stop is just outside JR Kyoto Station. On the first floor of Hatoya Zuihokaku Hotel is Annie Hall Bar. It’s been in its current location since 2015, but before that, the bar operated in a different location since 1979. I suppose the original owners liked Woody Allen?

Annie Hall Bar

Kyoto’s subway network is drastically more simplistic than that of Tokyo. The Karasuma Line runs north to south, and the Tozai Line runs east to west. And… that’s it! There are a ton of bars and izakaya in the Kawaramachi district, or basically “downtown Kyoto.” To get to Kawaramachi, get off at Karasuma Line’s Shijo station (a mere two stops from Kyoto station) and head east. Kawaramachi sits on the banks of the mighty Kamo River, but instead of crossing the Shijo Bridge, there’s a cluster of bars and izakaya along either side of the Takase River that runs just parallel to the Kamo River. Hard to go wrong in this area. It’s where our next bar is.

Bee’s Knees

If you’re looking for a more relaxed and traditional “Japanese” bar atmosphere to enjoy great spirits–especially rum!–Rum and Whisky is only 250 meters away.

Rum and Whisky

The Kyoto Distillery launched KI NO BI gin in 2016, right around the same time I launched this website. If the Chichibu Distillery kicked off Japan’s craft whisky movement, then the Kyoto Distillery definitely kicked off Japan’s craft gin movement. One thing that’s struck me about the Kyoto Distillery over the years is how they’ve focused entirely on gin and the KI NO BI brand. With Japanese whisky being as successful as it is, one would think Japan’s first craft gin brand would want to get into Japanese craft whisky. But no, they’re entirely about gin. I can respect that! And apparently, Pernod Ricard can too.

Visits to the Kyoto Distillery itself aren’t permitted. Even to members of the press. The closest we can get is The House of KI NO BI. Let’s check it out.

The House of KI NO BI

Unlike Tokyo, Kyoto has its fair share of rooftop bars. To close things out, we’ll visit a relatively new spot overlooking the famed Kiyomizudera.

cicon by Nogha Hotel


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