Cocktail party in Tokyo?

In a few weeks my s.o. and I will host a Japanese style cocktail party. It is part of a small neighborhood tour where each house has a theme.

We’ll make some sushi and have sake, probably chilled. But what else. How are the Japanese partying today? I came in from gardening with my cowboy hat on and thought, “now this is probably the kind of hat someone might wear out in Tokyo, forget the traditional clothing.” Anyhow, some current info from any dopers in Japan or recent visitors will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

I’ve heard reports from Japanese-themed bars in the States that serve “sake-tinis”, which include – among other ingredients – a mini (raw?) octopus in each one. Not sure where you’d find the mini cephalopods, but perhaps there’s an Asian market in your area? This could definitely make for a memorable touch to your soiree.

Poked around and came up with a few variations for the saketini (complete with octopus, to replace those pesky olives):
[ul][li]Hakusan sake with Bombay Sapphire gin and vodka [/li][li]Vodka with lemon-infused sake, stirred with a spicy marinated octopus[/li][li]Or just make a regular martini (gin & vermouth), and substitute sake for the gin[/li]but don’t forget the octopus in each one![/ul]Kampai!

sing karaoke

For drinks, if you can get them in arizona, try some ume-shu yum
(for more info see: or chu-hi

For food, there’s just so much choice its difficult to guide you but the cite above for ume-shu also contains a lot of food info.

Fashion, again is a free-for-all, and you can have a lot of fun. Bob Marley-style knitted hats have come back in a big way (its about time!), big shoes are still popular despite the associated risk of altitude sickness, I still see them everyday.( Cowboy hat is a good idea, but it should be leopard-skin print or bright orange grin. Hope some of this helps.

Unfortunately, cocktail parties are considered pretty western, so you’d be hard pressed to find major differences between one in Japan and one in America (including what people are drinking), but here are some ideas.


  • Japanese beer (Sapporo, Asahi, Kirin, etc.). Simple.

  • Shochu, which is pretty similar to vodka. Usually mixed with something non-alcoholic to make ‘chu-hai’. Soda, fruit juices (orange-hai, grapefruit-hai, etc.) and hot or cold chinese tea (oolong-hai) are popular, but I’ve also seen more exotic shochu mixes with coffee, garlic, ginseng and other things. I’d stick with the juice and tea. Mixing proportions are about the same as a screwdriver. Another common drink (which I forget the name of) is to mix it with hot water and put a piece of fruit (or other foods, according to taste) inside.

  • Umeshu, or plum liquor. Very sweet, it’s made by mixing green plums, sugar and shochu and letting it brew for a year or two (so mixing your own in time for the party is probably out). It can be drunk straight, but is also mixed with water (hot or cold), or soda.

You can probably find the beers at any decent-sized liquor store, the shochu and umeshu might be harder. Ask at the place where you got the sake, they might have them or know where you can get them.

Snacks (if you can find an asian grocery):

  • Ebi-sen (Shrimp chips). They look and feel like styrofoam packing chips, but aren’t bad. The shrimp/fish taste is very mild.

  • Potato chips. American, I know, but you might be able to find nori (seaweed) or ume (plum) flavor. Personally, I think they taste awful.

  • Pocky. Pretzel sticks with a variety of flavors, ranging from cheese, onion or tomato to chocolate and strawberry.

  • Nori-type seaweed. Not as gross as it sounds. This type has been dried, ground up and pounded flat into what looks like dark green construction paper. It’s completely edible, and is typically used for wrapping other foods like rice or fish so they can be eaten by hand. If you have cold cuts, you could use nori instead of bread or crackers: take a palm-sized square (they usually come pre-cut) in your hand, put whatever fillings you want on top, then fold or roll it to eat like a mini-sandwich. Good-quality nori should have just a little crunch to it, like a firm fruit.

  • Dried squid. Ok, this one’s as gross as it sounds. Actually, if you can find the dried and shredded type, it tastes ok with some mayonnaise or other sauce to dip it in.

Anyway, hope the party goes well. And welcome to the SDMB!

You normally don’t see a huge variety of drinks in a formal Japanese party. Usually it’s just one brand of beer or sake. The important thing is to never pour your own drinks; pouring drinks for each other is an important part of the party. If it’s an informal reception or party you can also have a selection of alternative drinks (chu-hi, fancy sake and western drinks) which you can pour for yourself.

Chu-hi is short for shochu highball. Shochu is basically vodka, i.e. a clear distilled liquor made from sweet potatoes or grains (rice, buckwheat, etc). I’ve never made chu-hi myself but I think it’s just shochu, soda water, fruit juice or syrup (grapefruit and lemon seem to be popular) and possibly sugar.

As someone said above, cocktail parties are a western concept. I lived in Japan for 7 1/2 years, and I never managed to go to what I would consider a cocktail party. They exist, but the usually are the product of the overactive imagination of someone who has watched a few too many Audrey Hepburn movies and has a lot of cash to spend. The Japanese have traditional drinking parties, but they are radically different from what we think of in the west. Seldom are they held at people’s homes (few people have a home big enough to accomodate one.)

As others suggested, try some Japanese libations, like sake, shochu, and umeshu. BTW, since it is winter time, a warmed sake would be more appropriate than chilled. If you want sake information, go to and look for the sake links. In fact, the site could be a wealth of info on cocktail parties too, as it covers the social activities of the local foreign community. You will want to check the back issues, however, as the publisher just died, and the current issue is a tribute to him.

I lived in Japan for 7 years and when I went to a city, at first used to get excited when I saw ‘cocktail bar’ (I was living in the boonies), then I sampled some of their cocktails. They seem to be very strong with no fresh juice or cream or anything recognisably like what I was used to. This was I guess an attempt at western cocktails?
Usually the Japanese drink beer, shochu, sake or misu wari which is whiskey and lots of water. And in my experience, the men don’t usually eat much - they get plastered and go from bar to bar then at about 1am, go for salty noodles. May have something to do with the high rate of strokes in older men?

It may not be the case anymore, but I remember hearing a few years ago about the popularity of Scotch Whiskey, both from Scotland and Japan, in Japan. Perhaps you should include this in your libations. I had a bottle of the Japanese-made Suntory Yamazaki 12 Year old a while ago, and it was really very good. Not sure where you’d get it, though.

Holy mother, I spelled whisky “whiskey.”

Now I must go seek the forgiveness of my ancestors.

That, or commit seppuku with a claymore.

One drink that pairs incredibly well with Japanese cooking is Samuel Adam’s Triple Bock. Though it makes a nice sipper, I use this stuff primarily in the kitchen, where it has filled the role of missing ingredient of many an Asian dish.

If you are serving raw scallops or other sushi, try offering some sam III-bock in a dish.