As a second-generation Japanese-American who spent her summers visiting her family outside of Tokyo, Kira Webster has been bringing the flavors of Japan to the bars and restaurants of St. Louis. From infusing gin with chamomile and miso to washing creme de cacao with sesame, Webster — our 2023 Raising the Bar Award winner — finds new ways to include Asian ingredients in the city’s cocktails.
She placed second in the first-ever 2022 National Shochu Competition in the U.S. at Bar Goto Niban in Brooklyn, NY. Her winning Fit for a Himiko cocktail in the Shochu competition was inspired by an ancient Japanese Queen who was one of the country’s supreme rulers during her reign and is still a feminist icon today.
The Quiet Night Thought sparkling sake cocktail, made with house-made, lemon-almond-pink peppercorn oleo syrup and trakal — the first original Patagonian spirit distilled with native herbs and fruits — was inspired by the works of prolific Chinese poet Li Bao.
Webster began her restaurant career as a server after she moved to St. Louis to study psychology at Webster University. Upon graduation, she decided to use her psychology degree to better understand the hospitality industry, starting out as a bartender.
“I fell in love with bartending [in college] and got really into craft cocktail bartending when I was 22,” she says.
Webster began to explore Asian ingredients while beverage director at Bao, a Chinese small-plates concept. Then as the beverage director at Indo and Nippon Tei, Webster kept pushing the boundaries of non-traditional flavors and seeking inspiration from her Japanese heritage in her cocktail recipes.
Webster also implemented an impressive sake program at both concepts and hosted a collaboration dinner with internationally renowned sake samurai Monica Samuels in fall 2022. Currently behind the bar at 801 Fish, an upscale seafood restaurant, she continues to explore identity through the lens of her cocktails.