Taking place on 18th March, the competition will showcase the creativity and passion of the UK’s leading bartenders.

The competition is held by the UK Bartenders’ Guild in partnership with the Japanese Sake & Shochu Makers Association (JSS), and is the third annual Great Honkaku Shochu & Awamori Contest held to drive awareness of the versatility and taste these unique spirits can provide and follows the growing success of the competition.

And one highly talented winner will be selected to win a trip to Japan, allowing them to hone their skills even further with the experts in the Japanese spirit industry.

Accompanying the competition will be an expert-led tasting taking place on 12th February, from leading lights in the Japanese spirit industry, as well as skilled artisanal brewers and distillers, demonstrating the production, flavour profiles and providing cocktail inspiration.

This year’s event focuses again on the Honkaku Shochu and Awamori, which are a characteristic pair of Japanese spirits that hold a significant cultural relevance in the country, and are produced with a microorganism called koji-kin, a type of mould indigenous to Japan.

Developed as a collaboration between the two organisations, the competition and seminar continues the Guild’s goal of heightening the profile of the Japanese drinks industry in the UK and inspiring talented artists to craft new, innovative creations with the versatile spirits. 

Last year’s competition was won by Matteo Basso, who develops his unique drinks out of The Malt Lounge & Bar at The Prince Akatoki in London,  and delivered a show stopping performance with his creation, the Otsukaresama.

As with last year, the entrants will be free to impart their own style on the competition, utilising their talents and knowledge to enhance and develop on the profile of the spirits and their flavours.

This year’s panel of speakers is led by Christopher Pellegrini, Founder of Honkaku Spirits and a leading expert on the Japanese drinks industry.

A shochu and awamori expert, author and podcast host, Christopher honed his skills as a brewer at Otter Creek Brewing Company in Middlebury, Vermont before becoming a full-time professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. 

His reputation is widely respected across the industry, being a judge of the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition as well as Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, a contributor to the newly released “Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails” and writing the first non-Japanese book about shochu and awamori, “The Shochu Handbook”. 


Christopher was also the first person to be certified by the Sake Service Institute as a Shochu Kikisakeshi (specialist) in Japan and as a Shochu Advisor by the Sake School of America; he is one of a select few that hold both accreditations.

He launched Honkaku Spirits in March of 2020 with the mission of bringing intensely artisanal Japanese spirits to discerning American consumers, especially koji-based spirits including shochu, awamori, and koji whiskey, and now brings his extensive knowledge to judge the competition this March.


Anyone that signs up to the tasting led seminar session will also be sent a link to a seminar from leading Shochu & Awamori expert Don Lee, which will consist of an indepth look into the two spirits and how to get the most out of these versatile drinks.

Claudia Carrozzi, President at UKBG said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with the Japanese Sake and Shochu Makers Association for another year. 

“Following the great success of our past collaborations, we are eager to continue promoting the exceptional spirits of Japan. Our industry thrives on innovation and creativity, and we hope to generate more interest in Sake and Sochu across the UK.”

Competition entry is open to anyone, and those looking to enter the competition can register to receive a free sample pack. Entrants must register and attend the Honkaku Shochu and Awamori masterclass in order to enter the competition.

To attend the seminar, please respond by midnight on 4th February, and for further details on the seminar and competition please click here.

Submissions for the competition must be entered by midnight on 3rd March

For more information on the competition and to sign up, please click here.

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