Hiroyasu Kayama is, essentially, a farmer with a saloon. In daylight hours, he tends to his crops on farmland the size of a football pitch in the city of Chichibu. He nurtures plum trees, hop bines and watermelons. He grows all the botanicals for his farm-distilled absinthe. And he usually has an experiment or two running – perhaps submerging bottles in a swamp for ageing or attempting to distil his farm’s terroir in a coffee siphon.
After dusk, and a 90km drive to the capital, he opens his 17-seater bar and serves that produce in cocktail form, usually as a spin on a classic, and sometimes in pottery he fired himself in a rudimentary homemade kiln. His bar spoon might be a twig that he snapped off a tree that morning, and his ice balls come stuffed with homegrown hops. In typical Japanese fashion, he has no menu. You hone in on a flavour camp and he sets to work making a cocktail no other bartender could.