April 2023 Sake Cocktail Contest Results

We held our first ever Sake Cocktail Contest on the 3rd, and we are happy to say it was a smash hit! Eight expert cocktail makers battled it out in front of a sold out venue at Platypus in St. Louis for a chance to take first place and win a $600 cash prize. Their creation had to feature at least one sake from Tozai Sake and one spirit from Holladay Distillery. 

This event is made possible by a grant from  Japan Foundation NY and is sponsored by McCormick Distilling Company, Tozai Sake, and Intoxicology.

Each contestant put on an outstanding show for the crowd and created not just beautiful, but delicious cocktails for the judges to taste. Between the expertise of their showmanship and the quality of their drinks, our judges were hard pressed to make the final placements, but only one could come out on top! Congratulations to Kevin Wichlin on taking 1st place with his creation, 'Don't be Koi'! It was by no means a landslide decision though, Chris Wagner with his 'Rise and Brine' landed second place and Jiana West showcasing 'Funky Boi' was right behind in third!

The Winners Are...


Kevin Wichlin

Don't Be Koi


Chris Wagner

Rise and Brine


Jiana West

Funky Boi

Though we could only pick the top three, we would like to give a thanks to our other competitors as well;  Peter Crumpler, Chris Kuse, Marky Lara, Andy Printy, and Jake Smith. They all performed amazingly!

All the Contestants and Their Cocktails

Kevin Wichlin

Don't Be Koi

.75 oz Tozai Living Jewel

.75 oz Brokers Gin

.5 oz homemade clarified yuzu-citrus blend

.25 oz homemade rich seaweed syrup

I am not very well versed in sake, so this was an educational journey for me. I wanted to create a cocktail that consisted of popular Japanese flavors and was inspired by the appearance of sushi. Sake has a delicate flavor, so the ingredients really allow the Living Jewel to shine through with a hint of salt and citrus.

Chris Wagner

Rise and Brine

1 oz. Tozai Typhoon

1 oz. Tozai Well of Wisdom Ginjo

2 oz. Broker’s London Dry Gin

.25 oz. sushi Seasoning (seasoned rice wine vinegar)

.25 oz. lemon juice


spritz toasted sesame oil

This cocktail was inspired by exploring tide pools on early morning beach walks. Creating a wet dirty martini variation allows the sake to shine and compiement the briny sea grapes and caviar. Serving it in shells captures that ocean essence while also allowing the cocktail to be naturally shared, like an appetizer.

Jiana West

Funky Boi

2 oz Tozai Living Jewel Sake

.75oz 360 Vanilla Vodka

2 dashes black salt

1 barspoon Ming River Baijiu

.25 oz lime juice

.5 oz Banane Du Bresil

1 oz coconut milk

I wanted to go with something a little adventurous, a little tropical. Living Jewel is pretty delicate to me so I wanted to boost some of its flavor notes with banana liqueur and the fruity, funky notes of Baijiu.

Peter Crumpler

The Haku Peak

1 oz Tozai Snow Maiden

.75 oz Tequila Rose strawberry liqueur

1 oz El Dorado 3-Year Rum

.5 oz homemade acidulated strawberry syrup

.5 oz clarified lime juice

.5 droper Fee Bros. foaming agent

4 drops creole bitter

Chris Kuse

Not Your Mother's Sake-Tea-Ni

1.5oz Tozai Blossom of Peace

.75 oz bonito-infused Broker's Gin

.5oz homemade genmaicha simple syrup

.25oz fresh-squeezed and clarified lime juice

homemade dehydrated Green Chartreuse and matcha powder

homemade Tozai Blossom of Peace rice tuile garnish

homemade matcha-Chartreuse edible paint

No one thing inspired this cocktail, but rather my own curiosity about the sake category and opportunity to work with Japanese ingredients. My academic background is in anthropology and ecology, so when it comes to alcohol, my curiosity is driven by how a spirit/liquor/wine is important culturally and how climate/geography affects the product. Sake is something I’ve tasted, and enjoyed, but always wanted to learn more about, so was excited by this opportunity to dive in. Upon researching sake what really interested me is the social role it plays throughout recorded Japanese history, specifically breaking down age, social, and work barriers, while opening avenues for new relationships to form; This is why I wanted sake to be the primary component of my cocktail. Another important factor for me in crafting cocktails is using as much local/in season ingredients as possible. With Tozai being from the Kyoto prefecture of Japan, I wanted to challenge myself to use culturally and seasonally appropriate ingredients that highlight Kyoto and would make sense for the region. With spring on the way, I chose the Blossom of Peace sake because Japanese plum trees are some of the first flowers to blossom in Japan during February/March, signaling that winter is on its way out. Wanting to add some earthiness to balance out the juiciness of the plum sake, I chose to add matcha, specifically from Kyoto, which is known for its high quality matcha. Wanting to add some nuttiness and depth, I made a syrup from local producer Firepot Tea Co. using their Japanese Peasant Tea (AKA genmaicha) which contains toasted rice and wheatgrass. One of my favorite decisions was to infuse the Broker’s Gin with bonito flakes to add. Bit of salinity and savoriness to the cocktail. With much of Kyoto being inland, many fish products used are dried/preserved, so it also made sense to use. The most questionable ingredient choice was probably the green chartreuse, however, after reading about “o-toso” sake I wanted eager to bring about good health and prosperity for the rest of 2023. So when thinking about herbal flavors, I thought there was none better than chartreuse. The choice to dehydrate was a fun experiment too for the purpose of taking away the proof that would distract from the sake, and leaving behind the herbal flavors and sugar. The flower shaped tuile containing is another homage to plum blossoms and spring, that adds accent, and leaves no waste behind. In essence, this cocktail is an expression of all the exciting things I’ve learned about sake thus far, while also celebrating Japanese ingredients and the people from different ages/walks of life that may try this drink as well "

Marky Lara

Snow Bunny

Snow Maiden

Brokers Gin

4 oz Homemade Sorbet

35.25 oz Snow Maiden

1.2 oz Glucose

4.5 oz Honeydew Melon Juice

1 gelatin sheet, bloomed

I immediately thought how exciting it would be to try and turn the sake Snow Maiden into edible snow. The honeydew melon's tartness and color really plays well with the texture, and creaminess of the sake and the botanicals and subtleness of the gin. I named my cocktail snow bunny after my partner in crime, a bunny named Annie.

Andy Printy

A Volcanic Sunset

1.25 oz Tozai Typhoon

.75 oz Five Farms Irish Cream

.5 oz enoki mushroom & shiokoji syrup

2 dashes Red Apple bitters

red shiso & apple ice

As far as my ethos in creating this cocktail, I decided to draw from my experience as an 18yr old in the Marine Corps and being deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. It was my first rime experiencing a new culture, and although I was there under less than fun circumstances, I did get a few opportunities to explore! One of those opportunities was going to climb Mt. Fuji. Climbing this dormant volcano doesn't require gear or experience, but it is a long 12k climb to the peak. Everything, from the people I met along the way to finding little kiosks set up along the way (some doing yakitori some using little fires and brands to mark your walking stick at various points) had a very profound affect on me. I was this small town Irish kid who had never really left home before and was now standing on the side of a mountain half a world away and just trying to absorb thousands of years of culture in this one day. It's not only impossible, but overwhelming lol.

I chose the Irish Cream to pair with the Typhoon because they share some nice earthy qualities that when combined, have a fun nutty and funky profile; not to mention how well it fit the theme. I really wanted to add to the profile with some umami flavors, and using some common Japanese ingredients to get there. The Enoki mushroom and shio koji accomplish just that. The apple bitters are the ""rug that ties the room together"" and the ice is meant to represent Mt. Fuji peaking above the clouds at sunset. As a final touch, the smoked Enoki garnish is there to represent the streams of smoke from the small cooking fires rising from the mountain side.

Jake Smith

Hello! Nice Umeshu

.75 oz Tozai Blossom of Peace

1 oz cherry-blossom-tea infused Broker’s Gin

.5 oz yuzu juice

1 oz Fuji apple and honey Blossom of Peace shrub

.5 oz egg white

rose-molded strawberry ice


This cocktail is a celebration of springtime in Japan, utilizing many ingredients native to the country. The cherry blossom infusion gives a subtle floral note while highlighting the unofficial national flower of Japan while Fuji apples, strawberries, and yuzu highlight spring fruits native to the country.

This event is made possible by Japan Foundation NY and is sponsored by McCormick Distilling Company, Tozai Sake, and Intoxicology.



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