Bar or alchemist’s back room? That is the question on entering Bar Benfiddich in Shinjuku. There are all manner of bottles lined up, some twinklingly clean, some with just the hint of dust. Hiroyasu Kayama, the owner, is after all always on the hunt for historical, rare, or otherwise just knock-your-socks-off good bottles. There are even vintage bottles of liqueurs and spirits from centuries past. And the drinks made with them might shaken, stirred, or assembled in a pestle and mortar after pounding a handful of herbs and botanicals. Many of which may have been grown by Kayama himself. So you can see why he’s as often called an alchemist as he is a bartender or mixologist.
The cocktails at Bar Benfiddich are creative and masterfully blended, often offering new flavour twists on standard classics, like the addition of wormwood in a gimlet. That’s part of the reason it’s usually packed. Well, that and the fact that in addition to being innovative, the drinks are also damn good.
Perhaps not a joint to linger in, unless you’re lucky enough to snag a seat, nevertheless, it’s worth making your way to the walnut wood bar and asking Kayama to whip you up something special. It’s almost guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve tried before.