For ten years in a row, Tokyo’s “High Five” bar has been voted into every edition of The World’s 50 Best Bars. This makes it the bar with the most consistent performance in the history of the prestigious list. For its outstanding continuity, the High Five has now been honored with the “Heering Legend of the List” award as part of this year’s announcements. High Five founder Hidetsugu Ueno, a true icon of Japanese bartending, reveals the secret behind the bar’s longstanding success—and why it may even include refusing the guest the last drink.
Heering cherry liqueur, head sponsor of the “Heering Legend of the List” award and an indispensable player in most of the World’s 50 Best Bars, congratulates the High Five team on this incredible achievement. “The High Five impresses with outstanding cocktail craftsmanship and has been setting the standard for exemplary cocktail making for many years. As an official partner of the World’s 50 Best Bars, we are delighted to acknowledge excellent achievements in the bar business. In line with our global company vision to ‘Own the cocktail’ we always strive to inspire new great-tasting cocktails,” explains Albert de Heer, Global Marketing Director at De Kuyper Royal Distillers, whose premium portfolio includes Heering.
Performing among the 50 best in the world for ten years is something special even for the world famous High Five from Tokyo’s elegant Ginza district. For founder Hidetsugu Ueno, the key to success is the absolute focus on the guest. “In Japan, bar business is less a matter of trends and self-expression. It is more a psychological type of business,” says Ueno. For this reason, he says, the High Five has never had a menu. “We prefer to ask guests about their favorite tastes and their current mood to make drinks suitable for each and every one of them. That’s how we communicate from the start, not just through the menu. In my opinion, the most characteristic feature of Japanese bartending, which is often praised for its technique, is that we are psychologists without a license,” says Ueno with a smile.
According to Ueno, this also includes serving the guest the last drink at the right time. It requires courage not to serve one more drink, he says, but is part of the secret of how to run a bar successfully for a long time. “If the guests wake up well in the morning, they appreciate our behavior—and might come back the next evening,” explains Ueno.