UKBG-JSS Great Honkaku Shochu & Awamori Contest: Winners & Round-Up

Earlier this month, we concluded our latest competition – The Great Honaku Shochu & Awamori Contest – run in partnership with the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association (JSS). Our shared goal was to put the two newly recognised Japanese categories into the hands of the UK’s most gifted and driven bartenders, to devise new recipes and spread a wealth of knowledge across our humble scene.

Our sincerest thanks go to Miho Komatsu, the UKBG’s link with the JSS and co-coordinator for the contest. Our gratitude also to the inimitable Don Lee, who led our briefing session and masterclass – and UKBG’s live video partner, Dean Callan of the Bartenders Broadcasting Network

As a reminder, UKBG members can access the masterclass via the Members Zone. Just use your membership number to log in, and get access to a wealth of knowledge and exclusive discounts from our partners – as well as photo galleries from our previous events.

Congratulations go to our contest winner, Oliver Eardley,The Savoy, with his recipe, ‘A Grain of Memory’. Well done to our runners-up, Matteo Basso (NCC2021 Winner) with “Golden secret” (2nd Place), and Hyppolite Civins (NCC2021 Runner Up) of Quaglinos with “Man’naka” (3rd). Read on for more photos and winning recipes!


Don Lee’s Honkaku Shochu & Awamori Seminar

We kicked off our competition cycle with Don Lee, famed New York bar legend, leading the briefing seminar and masterclass. First off, we should mention that the entire UKBG board agreed that this was one of the most impressive and worthwhile seminars that the UKBG has delivered, in terms of depth of knowledge, study and culture. Don is possibly one of the most gifted speakers we’ve had the pleaseure of working with – we’d highly recommend catching up on the seminar, if you haven’t already done so!

Via the technical wizardry of Dean’s Cocktail Broadcast shed, Don led a 2-hour masterclass with nearly 100 members, covering everything from Japanese culture to the finer technical details of brewing and flavour profiles, touching on important issues such as appropriation and cultural reciprocity and respect. Don took great pains to go beyond simple product specs and production – because devising a good cocktail recipe goes beyond simple ingredients, and really requires an emotional connection with your ingredients.


The Finalists

Following the seminar, we opened up online submissions for hopeful compeitiors to send through their Honkaku Shochu & Awamori recipes. From the many entries we recieved from across the country, we whittled down to eight finalists who represented the skills and thinking we were looking for.

In order:

  • Davide Capirola of  8 At the Londoner
  • Simon Thomas of The Blind Bus Driver, Kendal
  • Samuele Cucino of Billesley Manor
  • Oliver Eardley  of the Savoy Hotel
  • Hyppolite Civins of Quaglinos
  • Oscar McClure of  SoHe Newcastle
  • Thomas Ryan (Admiral Backbar)



The Winners

1st Place – Oliver Eardley – “A Grain of Memory”

Oliver’s Commentary:

“I wanted to create a rice-focused drink involving an aspect of sustainability. I have incorporated local Sake Production in London by using the Kanpia Brewery’s rice Koji and Sake Kasu from their Sake making processes. I fermented my own Amazake using their rice Koji and Thai Jasmin rice to create an Amazake related by rice origin to Awamori, and created an edible garnish, producing a coral tuile from Sake Kasu.

The template for this drink takes inspiration from classic cocktails such as the Adonis and the Bamboo cocktail from combining spirits with Vermouth/Sherry and bitters.

I chose to use Mild Mizuho 5 Years as my Awamori as this product is an aged Awamori (“kusu”) distilled by “Mizuho Distillery” on the Okinawan island of Ryukyu. It is made from rice and black Koji, distilled one-time and only produced in the islands of Okinawa. Kusu Awamori types are aged for 3 years minimum in jars and taste similar to aged Whisky or Brandy providing the perfect base for a classic cocktail inspired drink.”

45ml ‘Kusu’ Awamori (Mild Mizuho 5 Years)
45ml Martini Ambrato
20ml Home-made Jasmine rice Amazake
4 Dashes Japanese Shiso Bitters

Fleur Glass Tumbler 10.25oz

Sake Kasu Coral Tuile

Build the ingredients into a tin, throw the cocktail 3/4 times, pour over block ice and garnish


2nd Place – Matteo Basso – Golden Secret

Matteo’s Commentary:

“I am using Awamori as a main ingredient of the drink, and as an ingredient for the ice-cream that will be the cocktail’s garnish. I got the inspiration from the product itself, which I found to be quite savoury. In order to enhance that flavour, I made a homemade savoury fortified wine, based on vermouth. The garnish will be a rice-based ice cream, with some Okinawa sugar caramel – both of which this Awamori is made from.

The kitchen and bar have a lot in common – techniques, ingredients, tools, you name it. Yet there are some differences, there is a space in between, there is a bit of MA.

When you do a pairing, which can be with wine, or with a drink, you need some space between a sip and a bite, a second of pause, to appreciate and understand all the flavours, and how they work together. This too is MA. My drink aims to do both, mixing techniques of both bar and kitchen, creating a drink that you can meditate on, complemented by the garnish, and where both need time and space to be fully understood.”

60 ml Miyazato harusame ka awamori
20 ml Homemade fortified wine
5 ml Maraschino
3 drop tea bitters

[Homemade Fortification] – 300 ml of dry vermouth cooked sous-vide at 45 C with 20 gr lemon, 5 shiso leaves, than strained, cooked again at 70 C with 120 gr mushroom and 1 gr nori.

Martini coupette

Discarded lemon peel, rice ice cream, Okinawa brown sugar.



3rd Place – Hyppolite Civins – Man’naka

Hyppolite’s Commentary

“Playing with the concept of MA, I created a visual trick that would prepare your brain for a nice, hot and sweet Irish coffee, but instead you get a full Umami cocktail with a blend of Porcini and Awamori. As MA is also a concept embodying relaxation, the perfect white foam, the separation between the black and white, it all embodies the spirit of the MA – opposing energies that separate yet match to create a peaceful visual. The name infers the concept of ‘midway’ – if something is midway between two places, it is between them and the same distance from each of them.

This Awamori I chose is aged for three years in a clay pot giving the time to the black Koji and the Thai rice to fully grow and develop their flavours. I needed one Awamori with character and that would be able to fulfil the start of the show, and this one was perfect.”

60ml of Miazato Harusame Kari
35ml of Porcini Black Cordial

Porcini cordial –
Ratio sugar:1 water:2, let infused sous vide for 24h with porcini dried.
Strain out and add active charcoal and acid blend


Miazato Harusame kari & Ginjo Yuzushu Foam (Caster sugar, blended)


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