Bee's Knees


Forget the Kyoto clichés of hushed cobbled streets and silent bows to greet you: Bee’s Knees, in the city’s rollicking Kiyamachi district, offers gregarious hospitality and a roaring good time. The theme is prohibition-era speakeasy, with exposed brickwork, subdued lighting and, naturally, a decoy façade – in this case a bright yellow door with a sign for “The Book Store”.

On the other side of that door, past a heavy black curtain, audacious bartenders Toru Ariyoshi and Keisuke Yamamoto serve playful renditions of 1920s favourites like the namesake classic, but with yuzu in place of lemon, or their Manhattan with PB&J. The bittersweet, rye-based Not Godfather is served with a miniature Capone-style Homburg hat and you might spot a Mary Pickford on the ever-changing chalkboard specials. Negronis come with hoji tea and coffee bitters, and the Ninja Smashes place yuzu and passion fruit with lemon, shiso leaf, sparkling sake and Kyoto’s KiNoBi gin for a seriously refreshing tipple. As the bar enters its sixth year, there’s nothing secret about this speakeasy anymore, but its fourth appearance on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list is proof that Bee’s Knees lives up to its name.