Budo Sansho

The appeal of budo sansho
as told by professionals

Hayato Tsuchita

The unique aroma of budo sansho breathes fresh life into the world of cocktails

Hayato Tsuchita
Asuka II Assistant Maître d’hôtel

Interview date:2019.10.19

Hayato Tsuchita

Sansho: bringing out the Japanese spirit with ease - a spice unlike any other

“When it comes to making cocktails, I think it’s easier to bring out the Japanese spirit with sansho rather than yuzu.” says Hayato Tsuchita, Assistant Maître d’hôtel of the ‘Asuka II’ luxury cruise ship. ‘Maître d’hôtel’ is a French term meaning the head of the hotel or restaurant department. On the Asuka II, the position manages all of the restaurant bars on the ship. Tsuchita-san does rounds of all of the bars on the ship, and sometimes takes a turn behind the bar himself.

“Right now Japanese alcohol is drawing attention around the world, and bartenders are using japanese sake, shochu, and botanicals to make craft gin, etc.” We will see more drinks scented with Japanese herbs and spices. Among these is sansho, a spice unlike any other, a characteristic which makes it easy to demonstrate the Japanese spirit. There are indeed possibilities with sansho.

Enjoying sansho through the world of cocktails

Sansho, with its uniquely Japanese aroma, also suits western liquors.” says Tsuchita-san, who originally entered university to become an architect. He became attracted to the service industry when working part-time as a university student. “I really enjoyed interacting with customers. I wanted to find a job where my efforts made people happy. That’s how I started to feel.” Tsuchita-san eventually chose bartending. Although a different path to architecture, the two disciplines share elements of ‘putting something together’ and ‘creating something for others’.

“What do you think is in this?” Tsuchita-san asks customers as he hands them a sansho cocktail, finding it more interesting not to tell them what’s inside. Customers start to search for scent and flavor, saying “it feels like something I’ve had before...” “Once I tell them that it’s sansho, they always get excited.” he says. “They say ‘yes, once you say that it does taste like sansho!’”. Tsuchita-san likes his customers to experience the aromatic joy of a sansho-seasoned drink without preconceptions. “On the other hand, if you make a cocktail with mirin (sweet Japanese cooking sake) and season it with sansho, you can give it a grilled eel flavor!” he says. Tsuchida-san has many fun cocktail ideas floating around inside his head.

Sansho manhattan”

Enjoying sansho cocktails at home

Even without professional skills, delicious sansho cocktails can be enjoyed at home with these simple steps from Tsuchita-san.
○Gin and tonic / gin rickey: Add some sansho to commercially-available gin, pour it into a glass with a large amount of ice, and stir around 30 times. Once the sansho aroma is released, add tonic water for a gin and tonic, or soda water for a gin rickey.
○Highball: Soaking commercially-available whiskey in sansho produces a spicy highball cocktail. Pour the whiskey into a glass filled with ice and add soda water. Be careful not to add too much sansho however. Even a little sansho produces an excellent aroma, so rather than using a whole bottle, consider pouring some whiskey into a smaller bottle before adding the sansho.

For the essential nibble that accompanies alcohol, Tsuchita-san recommends something sweet to counterbalance the aromatic sansho. “Cream pairs well,” he says. Aside from cream, chocolate is also recommended.

Tsuchita-san’s cocktails

Tsuchita-san also manages to fit cocktail competitions into his busy schedule. “After the bar closes, I practice making cocktails, and I also visit different bars when the ship is in port.” In 2018, Tsuchita-san won the classic category at the Yokohama International Cocktail Competition, and in 2019, he won the creative category, winning two years running in separate categories.

Tsuchita-san finds opportunities to drink cocktails outside the Asuka II as well. “When I’m off the ship, I head back to my hometown in Wakayama Prefecture where my friend lets me use his guesthouse as a bar.” There, Tsuchita-san makes cocktails from local ingredients such as clementine oranges and budo sansho. “Just a little sansho really changes the flavor. It’s an excellent spice that packs an aromatic punch, even when used sparingly.” he says. If you are lucky and the timing is right, you may have the chance to taste one of Tsuchta-san’s delicate creations.

Tsuchita-san’s trophies
(Right) 2018 President’s Award, Taipei Bartender’s Association
(Left) 2018 Winner, Yokohama International Cocktail Competition
(Center) 2019 Winner, Yokohama International Cocktail Competition

Sansho manhattan recipe

Rye whiskey 40ml
Sweet vermouth 20ml
Sansho bitters* 3-5 dashes
Maraschino cherry to garnish

*Sansho bitters
○Soak 20-30 grams of Mizansho berry in 25-proof white liquor for approximately three weeks.
The amount of sansho and soaking time depends on your preference.
○Taste after two weeks and add more Mizansho berry or soak for longer as necessary.
○Filter the resulting liquor through a tea strainer or coffee filter and bottle it.
*Bringing the finished liquor to the boil once in a pot will increase its shelf-life.


Take a look at the cruise schedule to see the attractions of Asuka II, where Tsuchita-san works.


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