Ichi-go ichi-e, a Japanese phrase loosely translated as “a moment in time”, is the most popular item on the menu of Kaitei, a funky underground Benson hideaway serving innovative sake-based cocktails alongside Japanese beers, whiskies, and of course, sake. It is the ideal option for both indecisive and adventurous palates, trusting the talented mixologists behind the bar to titillate their tongues with something tasty.
Japan’s national beverage, nihonshu (sake), is a fermented beverage made from polished rice, water, koji, and yeast. Sake is less acidic than wine, making it a lovely base for cocktails as well as a home run when paired with most foods.
Premium sake is available in two categories: Honjozo, to which distilled alcohol is added for a smoother taste and more distinct aroma, and Junmai, pure rice sake. The latter is less aromatic, but richer in mouthfeel with higher acidity.
Bartender Bret Reimers enjoys coming up with new and interesting ways to showcase sake. The notion of aging spirits or cocktails in leather (yes, it looks like that bota bag you remember from college), led to aging sake in custom bags crafted in Spain for the aptly named, We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bota.
Reimers shared, “I’m fascinated by culinary concepts that cause progression,” as he reached into his bag behind the bar and displayed a copy of the Noma Guide to Fermentation. Fraiche to Death is a cocktail using blackened apples, inspired by techniques learned in the popular book.
Other offerings include the Open Sesameweed cocktail made from Hakitsuru sake, roasted sesame syrup, and wintermelon bitters with a seaweed garnish. If a description of a cocktail appeals, but fizzy is your jam, just ask them to bubble it and you’ll be served a house-carbonated beverage in a cute little bottle. Nostalgic for childhood snack time? Order a sake box and grab a snack from the vending machine. Feeling fancy? Ask for a dram of Japanese whisky.
Next time you’re in Benson after dark, make your way through the blue-lit door, sidle up to the bar, engage in a conversation about flavor, texture, and spirit preferences, then sit back, relax and enjoy your very own custom sake cocktail “at the whim” of the bartender.