I love me a good drinking den. And, let’s be honest, London is pretty full of top-end joints to hunker down of an eve and do just that – drink. I have no doubt many other cities in this fine country have much to offer too, of course, but my experience is with the capital and, thus far, I can’t complain.
One of the newest whisky spots on the block is Mizuwari – a Japanese themed bar on Old Compton Street in the downstairs section of Izakaya restaurant, Bincho, that’s filled with cocktails and drams galore.
As a big fan of Japanese whisky, the news of its opening was thrilling to my ears. Unfortunately, many other people felt the same so on opening night the small space was so rammed that getting a good look at its interiors or experiencing it in full was not possible.
I have since had the chance to go back and can say that it is a place I will be adding to my “Soho bars of best repute” list.
The bar is what one might call intimate – petite round tables and shared benches with individual lamps that can be dimmed dot the dark-wood floored and mahogany walled room, while behind the bar are rows of Japanese whisky.
The place was developed in partnership with Suntory, so all of the cocktails on the list feature whiskies from the company’s brands (think: Hakushu, Hibiki and Yamazaki).
However, when it comes to single drams, the menu is much more extensive and includes more than a dozen options from the Nikka range, various Ichiro’s Malts and a jaw-dropping selection of Karuizawas, which given their rarity and the fact this is a central London bar, are really rather reasonably priced (from £8.50-£12).
What I like about the space is that it will hopefully appeal to a wide range of drinker – not just the seasoned whisky lover. I could easily imagine bringing my non-whisky drinking girlfriends and winning them over with the feisty Rissun cocktail (Yamazaki 12, plum liqueur and ginger) or the silky smooth Seimei (Hibiki 12, maraschino liqueur, absinthe and lemon zest).
If you want to get fully into the spirit of Japanese tradition, then you can also purchase a bottle of whisky (such as the Yamazaki 12) to store in a locked cage behind the bar, as is done in drinking dens in the east. Your name will be left on it and you can access it any time you’re in the area. Okay – it’s a bit of a mark-up from shop price (£88 instead of £43 for the Yamazaki 12) but if you’re going out frequently in the area, it makes a good investment compared to buying individual drams each time.
Now, I won’t pretend this place is cheap. It’s not. A cocktail will hit your wallet for around £10 minimum but as a special treat it is well worthwhile. And, if you come on a Monday, the fabulous restaurant upstairs features all of its skewers of charcoal grilled meat for £1 each, so you can make a night of it for a fairly reasonable price.
In short, I’m hoping this will help raise the profile once more for the wonderful drink that is Japanese whisky. If you’ve not had the chance to try many yet and are in London, this will surely be the new place to go.
Photos provided by the team behind Mizuwari.
For more details, visit: bincho.co.uk/whisky-joint