Bar Benfiddich

The Benfiddich day often begins at 7am with an hour-long drive to the Kayama family farm where the key ingredients grow: the bison grass for the homemade faux Zubrowka, the hops for the balls of ice that slowly release their bitter notes, the gentian, the tea trees, the wormwood, the star fruit and passion fruit orchards. Owner Hiroyasu Kayama says the enforced closures for the Covid-19 period were hard, but allowed him to focus on the farm and greatly expand his herbal output. The bar backs often go with him, because Benfiddich is the only establishment on the list that has “weeding” as part of the job description. When they return to Shinjuku, to a tiny bar room festooned with drying wormwood, they prep for a guest experience like none other. Want a Daiquiri? Wait while Kayama presses the sugarcane. A Moscow Mule? That’ll be with a homemade fermented juniper soda. And next? “Wood spirits,” he says. “We’re distilling cedar, cherry wood, mizunara. Delicious.” Well, he hasn’t put a foot wrong yet, so perhaps the future is wooden.

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