The Benfiddich experience combines the motifs of a classic Tokyo bar (silky movements, sedate pace, no menu) with the feel of a makeshift moonshine operation (homemade spirits, plenty of wormwood, ancient herbal elixirs). Indeed, the painting on the backbar depicts just such an illicit endeavour. Many of the drinks are built from ingredients grown by owner-bartender Hiroyasu Kayama on his farm just outside Tokyo. Wormwood and fennel might go into a Fresh Absinthe Gimlet, and fresh hops are stuffed into ice balls for a visual reminder that this is proper farm-to-glass drinking. He distils some of his botanicals to make the house absinthe, and twigs from the farm are now employed as both garnishes and mixing spoons.
Your cocktails might come in antique European glassware collected on one of Kayama’s many trips abroad, or they might be in his custom-made glasses with a tiny chamber holding a key ingredient for aroma, such as flowers, herbs or a tiny cube of brûléed sugar toast. Benfiddich turned 10 years old this year and the 17-seater bar just keeps punching ever higher.