Every once in awhile you hear about a new place opening up that you know you have to visit.
The SG Club in Tokyo was one of those for me.
About a year prior to visiting, Tate and I visited SpeakLow in Shanghai, bartender Shingo Gokan’s first cocktail bar – and one of my all time favorite bar experiences I’ve had.
So when I heard that he was opening up a new place called SG Club in Tokyo, I knew that one way or another I’d need to venture out and see it for myself.
That time came a few months after the bar opened up, as timing worked out for a 48 hour layover in Tokyo on the way home from our trip to visit Singapore.
I’d been earlier in the year and hit all of the bars on the top 100 list, but Tate hadn’t been to any of them so, I gladly played tour guide!
Here’s a video from the first trip:
We decided to go fancy and blow some Hyatt points to stay at the famous Park Hyatt – which was quite the experience.
How We Ended up at SG Club Tokyo
Our first night there we spent close to 3 hours at my favorite bar in the world, Bar Ben Fiddich and was treated to an experience that was just as memorable as my first visit. Fresh Campari cocktail, FTW.
However knowing we had a lot of spots to hit and not a lot of time, we headed over to Ginza to visit Bar Orchard and Bar High Five (which might be the most overrated bar I’ve been to).
The following day we explored Shibuya, had the obligatory sushi lunch, and then headed over to a 3pm reservation at Gen Yamamoto, with plans to visit SG followed by Bar Trench.
Well, we never made it to the latter.
We strolled over to SG Club which is conveniently about a 10 minute walk from Shibuya crossing, we turned the corner, and much to my surprise Shingo was standing outside the front door smoking a cigar.
Now, in visiting places like this, with internationally renowned bartenders, you never actually expect to see them at the bar.
And I certainly never expect to see them actually bartending, unless you’re a total rockstar like Jeff Morgenthaler.
We talked for a few minutes and he mentioned he’d be bartending downstairs at Sip in about an hour – so clearly our night’s plans were laid out for us.
The entire place is themed around 1860s New York, which was the decade where the first Samurais came to the United States. What amazed me the most was just how much thought and detail went into the design of the spaces at SG Club.
Later in the evening, Shingo would give us a brief tour of the Sip space and point out numerous details that harken back to that 1860s theme.
It was clear this bar wasn’t an after thought, a lot of time went into planning every aspect of the bar.
What Does SG Club Stand For?
So this brings us to…what is the SG Club all about anyway? And what makes it unique?
SG stands for Sip and Guzzle – and that’s the crux of what the concept is all about.
There are actually two bars in one.
The more casual upstairs bar is called Guzzle, and the drinks there?
Well, they’re made for guzzling!
You know, the type of drinks that you feel like you could throw back in one giant sip.
The S, on the other hand stands for Sip.
And the drinks there? Complex, moody, contemplative. The type of drinks that you sit and linger over.
The two bars couldn’t feel more different. Guzzle feels loud and social, whereas Sip feels more intimate and reserved.
But the drinks? Oh man the drinks.
I had the best espresso martini of my life at Guzzle, and Tate had a world class daiquiri as well as a Rum and Coke cocktail that doesn’t actually use any cola – which was a trip to drink.
Oh, and for the cigar aficionado, since we visited, they’ve opened up a third space in the Club: a cigar room above Guzzle.
An Evening at Sip
We each had two drinks at Guzzle while waiting for Shingo to arrive at the bar downstairs.
Which, I must admit was difficult to keep it to two.
With some of the most delicious, crushable drinks in Tokyo, it could be very easy to throw back 3 or 4 in an hours time if you aren’t careful.
The conversation was interesting as there were people from all over the world at the bar, and one girl who admittedly had been there 3 nights in a row, as it was so good.
We finally meandered our way downstairs, and locked down two seats right in the center of the bar and started looking over the menu.
It couldn’t have been more different. Intense amaros, spirit forward cocktails, and well, everything that I love in a drink.
The experience is cool because it caters to two different preferences, or moods rather, while still having broad appeal.
In Guzzle even though I generally prefer spirit forward drinks, there was plenty I could find to enjoy. Honestly, they have one of the very best espresso martinis I’ve ever had.
Whereas Sip, still had some complex drinks that were more attainable for the less adventurous drinker. Tate was especially excited to see a modified Flirtibird on the menu, which was one of her favorites from his other bar, SpeakLow.
Why I Like SG Club So Much
Currently I have SG Club ranked #4 on my list of my favorite bars.
I wasn’t even a little bit surprised that in the 2019 Best Bars list, they debuted at #24.
Everything about the place speaks to me.
I love that there’s a casual social area where the drinks are as delicious as they are easy. The kind of place you could pop in with a friend after work, or grab a quick one before heading home.
And for the session where you really want to get into it and experience a cocktail you simply won’t taste anywhere else? You have Sip.
The spaces are beautiful, comfortable, and convenient – as it was one of the only bars we visited that you could walk to from Tokyo’s most notable tourist attraction.
So what happened in the end? Well, the plan was to go to Bar Trench so Tate could hit her last top bar in the City. But, we never made it.
The experience was so good at SG Club that it trumped doing anything else that evening.
We’ve also now had 2 separate friends that have visited SG and had the same thing happen. They expect to go in for an hour and end up staying 3.
This place has that effect on you, and along with Ben Fiddich and Bar Orchard – it is one of my 3 must visit bars when you’re in Tokyo.