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New course to tap into Sake sales surge

The Hakkasan Group has launched a one-day Sake course to tap into a growing demand for the Japanese drink among UK diners.

A ginjo sake served on the course made by the only British toji in Japan – Philip Harper

According to Christine Parkinson, group wine buyer for the restaurant group, Sake now accounts for 5% of total wine sales in Hakkasan’s non-Japanese restaurants, and one third of sales in its Japanese outlets.

“Sake is a major part of what we serve here [at Sake no Hana] but we have found that when we put sake on the list of our other restaurants the sales grow really strongly,” she said.

Continuing, she recorded, “We realised there is a growing desire to try sake, although she added, “We also realised that people don’t know anything about it.”

As a result, the group’s London-based Japanese restaurant, Sake no Hana, is to hold an “Initiation to Sake”, with the first of four half-day courses starting tomorrow.

Running from 11am, the course will introduce attendees to the history of sake, with a particular focus on how and when to drink it, and includes the chance to try seven different types of sake and one umeshu – a traditional Japanese plum wine – as well as enjoy lunch at Sake no Hana’s sushi counter.

Presenting the course, which costs £60 per head, will be Parkinson and wine writer Anthony Rose, who has judged in the International Sake Challenge since 2007.

According to Rose, the key factors in the quality of sake are the polishing of the rice used to make the drink – with up to 50% of the outer layer removed for the best examples – along with the purity of the water and, above all, the skill of the toji, or brew master.

Notably, Rose and Parkinson highlighted the expansion in sake suppliers in London in response to a growing demand for sake from non-Japanese restaurants, with one increasingly popular pairing being sake and cheese.

In terms of how to serve the drink, sake can be drunk both hot and cold, with the best sakes more commonly served cold.

As for glassware, Parkinson noted that there isn’t a Riedel glass specifically for sake, but that she prefers to serve the drink in cups, in keeping with Japanese custom.

Each course can accommodate a maximum of 10 people and the half-day sake initiations will take place on 6 July, 3 August, 7 September and 5 October.

The Hakkasan Group currently operates Chinese restaurants Hakkasan Hanway Place, Hakkasan Mayfair, Yauatcha and HKK, as well as the Japanese Sake no Hana.

The group is opening a Hakkasan restaurant in India’s Bangalore, Delhi and Calcutta between July to September this year, and is also planning to open Hakkasan outlets in Shanghai and Beverly Hills by the end of 2013.



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