The House of Suntory has brought back its popular bartender programme this year and to celebrate, UK Brand Ambassador James Bowker is going to host an exclusive virtual tasting with CLASS.  

Giving readers a taste of what the Dojo Programme has to offer, guests will be sent samples in advance and taken through a tasting by James. The virtual event takes place on August 26. For more information, please visit



James tells us what to expect from The House of Suntory Dojo Programme

1/ For anyone that isn't familiar with The House of Suntory Dojo Programme, tell us what it's all about.

James: The House of Suntory Dojo Programme is a first-of-its-kind activation for career bartenders that are passionate about professional growth. Over the course of six months we will host a series of Masterclasses wherein bartenders can learn from masters of Sushi, Ikebana, Kaiseki and Tea whilst applying these skills and philosophies to classic cocktails: Dojo wants to refocus on education and real growth, rather than the traditional model of competitions.

2/ What are they key pillars of  The House of Suntory Dojo Programme and what are you trying to achieve?

James: Built on Suntory’s three pillars of Hibiki (Inspiration from Nature), Monozukuri (traditional Japanese principles of craftsmanship), Omotenashi (authentic Japanese hospitality) The House of Suntory Dojo Programme seeks to embrace the idea of Kaizen – ‘constant improvement’ – by bringing together bartenders and Japanese Masters from all areas of Japanese culture.

Each masterclass will provide a deep dive into one of Japan’s most respected disciplines before working with the Masters to draw out learnings that can be applied to our work in hospitality so as to inspire each of us to refine the ways we think and work, and in so doing providing ever better and more authentic experiences to our guests.

3/ How do you feel bartenders can learn from concepts such as Monozukuri or Kogei craftsmanship and integrate them into their role as bartenders?

James: There are countless ways that we can learn from traditional Japanese crafts, as each embodies not just a particular look or style but seeks to demonstrate unique Japanese philosophies and ideas through their artisanship.

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For example, Kogei crafts like gin-making or sushi require you to focus on sourcing perfect raw materials, before refining your tools and techniques in such a way as to allow the natural beauty of the material to shine through your finished craft.

Further, in our first Ikebana class we learned about the distinction between Balance and Harmony, itself an exciting insight that many of us might overlook, as well as concepts like Ma (minimalism and negative space) and Wabi-Sabi (beauty in the natural and aged).

4/ What are they key events and activations you are doing around The House of Suntory Dojo Programme?

James: The four Monozukuri Masterclasses form the most exciting elements for me, wherein we will partner with Masters of Ikebana flower-art, Sushi-making, Kaiseki cuisine and the Tea Ceremony in order to provide insights into four topics central to bartending: Aesthetic & Garnishing, Balance & Seasoning, Pairing & Matching, and Hospitality & Theatre.

Industry reaction to The House of Suntory Dojo Programme

“It was an amazing lesson and showed the tip of the iceberg that this Dojo has yet to unleash. Hosted very well throughout, allowing everyone in the group to get together and grow,” - Sebastian Soh, Annabels Club.

“Dojo does an amazing job conveying Japanese culture. Focusing on the craft and philosophies of Ikebana gave this masterclass unique depth and a genuine sense of Japan and Suntory: I loved the parallels between art culture and cocktails – it has inspired me to inform myself more in my own time,” - Marion Zoelle, Kwant.

"Dojo so far has been an intriguing and mindful experience that has taken me out of my comfort zone – it is exactly what I’ve been looking for as I aim to grow as a person and bartender,” - Francesco Guido, The Connaught Bar.

“When Edmund Weil – the owner of Nightjar, Oriole and Swift – told me about Dojo he said it was totally unique and I would learn more than any competition I could enter. He was right. The best brand event I’ve been to,” – Tony Pescatori, Nightjar.