Event Recap: Awamori- A Traditional Spirit for the Modern Age

 In Culture Exchange

On March 1st, the Japan Society of Northern California hosted “Awamori — A Traditional Spirit for the Modern Age”, generously sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Sake has long been a popular alcohol from Japan that many Americans recognize and enjoy, but what about Awamori? This traditional Okinawan distilled spirit is a rarely seen and often only available in specialty shops and Japanese restaurants. It is made from long grain rice and can be served a variety of ways: on the rocks, mixed in cocktails, and even with ice cream! The variety of Awamori and diversity of uses make it a jack of all trades spirit that should not be overlooked. To teach our attendees about Awamori we had the pleasure of hosting the 36th Awamori Queen, Yuki Sakihara, and Netflix Drink master’s contestant Christian “SUZU” Suzuki-Orellana. This cultural event not only allowed viewers to learn about Awamori, but they had the opportunity to taste two Awamori cocktails made by SUZU. Guests were also served a gourmet Japanese dinner consisting of a variety of popular Japanese dishes included onigiri, curry, and karaage.

The event started the Awamori Queen of Okinawa giving the audience a historical overview of Awamori, from how it’s made to the many ways is can be used in the kitchen. Next, SUZU came on stage to give a live mixology demonstration. On stage, SUZU talked about his Japanese heritage and how that influence his work as a bartender. He tries to tell a story with every drink he makes, focusing on his experiences and memories of Japan. SUZU explained that a new trend in bar tending is experimenting with different flavors and alcohols, so Awamori is the perfect spirit to remix a traditional cocktail. The two drinks he made had a variety of ingredients ranging from lychee, chili, and milk.

After this lively cocktail demonstration SUZU answered questions from the audience, and the audience was given samples of the two cocktails he made on stage. Attendees were then free to network and continue enjoying samples of Awamori cocktails. Many attendees posted pictures of their drinks and friends on social media. Towards the end of the program, emcee Conrad Sherby raffled off two prizes provided from the Consulate General—Awamori t-shirts and bags— to two lucky guests. 

We were thrilled to host this in-person event, and it seems like many of our guests agreed — we had almost 100 attendees! We’d like to extend a special thanks to the Consulate General of San Francisco for supporting this event; the Awamori Queen for her presentation; SUZU for mixing up delicious cocktails; and Werqwise San Francisco for providing the venue for our event. We’d also like to extend our gratitude to our guests for making this event possible and sharing it on social media! We hope to see you are more Japan Society of Northern California events in the future!

SUZU’s recipes:

Kumi Odori

1.75 oz Awamori
.75 oz Basil Eau de Vie (I used St. George. This may not be available worldwide so I would substitute this with vodka and throw in 3-4 leaves of Basil leaves)
.25 oz Lychee Liqueur (I used Giffard)
.25 oz Ancho Verde Poblano Pepper Liqueur
.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup

In a shaking tin, combine all ingredients. Add ice, shake. Double strain to remove all ice shards (and basil leaves if using fresh leaves in replacement of the basil eau de vie) into a coupe glass.


1 1/2 part Awamori
1/2 part Ume San-Hō (equal parts Empirical Plum I Suppose, Matsui Brandy BarreL Aged Umeshu, Li Hing Mui Infused Vodka)
1/4 part Grapefruit Liqueur (I used Giffard)
1 part Grapefruit Juice
1/2 part Lemon Juice
1/4 part Simple Syrup
1/8 part Shiso Bitters
1 part Whole Milk
1 part Lagunitas Hop Water

Combine Awamori, Ume San-ho, Grapefruit liqueur, grapefruit & lemon juice, simple syrup into a large container. In a separate container, add milk. Combine the cocktail base and pour over milk. It is important to pour the cocktail over the milk, as oppose to the milk into the cocktail, as it will affect how the milk curdles. Let the milk punch rest for four hours. Using coffee strainers, strain the milk punch through the filters. This may need to be filtered up to two times for full clarification and to remove all the whey.

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