• Photo courtesy of Ma

    Photo courtesy of Magne Risnes

  • Photo courtesy of Ma

    Photo courtesy of Magne Risnes

  • Photo courtesy of Ma

    Photo courtesy of Magne Risnes

Fuglen is the 50-year-old, ever-so-cool Oslo cafe and bar that’s decked out in mid-century Scandinavian designs. By day it serves light-roast coffee to java geeks, by night it offers experimental cocktails created by its expert ba. And all day long it sells vintage furniture and interior goodies.

Fuglen Tokyo is the same concept, but 5,000 miles away in the Japanese capital. Visit in the daytime and you’ll find Tokyo’s beautiful people sipping coffee, and off-duty baristas talking about the finer points of brewing. Manager Kenji Kojima sources beans from artisan roasters in Norway and Japan and brews them via espresso machine, aeropress pump or Kalita wave dripper.

Visit in the evening and you’ll find bartenders Yumi Sato and Jorgen Hatloy serving the city’s most innovative cocktails. One of the more popular cocktails Paris Tokyo is a blend of gin, oolong-infused creme de cassis and Norwegian sake; the 7-Finger Death Punch has sake and cachaca, both infused with Japanese shichimi (7-spice) with orange juice, ice chai, shochu and simple syrup; other well-loved cocktails are sweetened with homemade syrups of ingredients as unconventional as pollen, clover and beer wort. The menu would be innovative anywhere in the world, but in the fastidious and orthodox world of Tokyo bartending, it’s almost heretical.

Head bartender Halvor Digernes sends the drink recipes from Norway each season. Sometimes he sends detailed instructions and cocktail names, other times he offers ideas of flavours and cocktail ingredients to play with.

Digernes travels to Tokyo every few months and is keen to get to grips with local ingredients and bar culture. Says Sato: “He’s been fascinated with shiso (perilla) recently, so we’ve got shiso and cheese sandwiches and a shiso cocktail.” His latest concoctions include a green tea sour and a short cocktail that pairs mezcal with 35-year-old sake.

Digernes also persuaded Japan’s Baird microbrewery to give him their wort, and the Shiga Kogen microbrewery to sell him hops. He steeps the hops in Irish whiskey, makes a syrup from the wort and uses them in a highball glass with egg white, grapefruit, lemon, soda and homemade hop bitters.

Fuglen has been drawing a celebrity clientele to the bar, including artist Takashi Murakami, who commissioned the team to produce soon-to-open cafes for him in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Fuglen, 1-16-11 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
www.fuglen.no


Nicholas Coldicott has been writing about Japanese drinks and bars for over a decade. He's the former editor of Eat Magazine, former drink columnist for the Japan Times, and former contributing editor at Whisky Magazine Japan.