Sake is having a moment. With around a dozen sake microbreweries going strong in America, it looks like the UK is set to follow suit. Lucy Holmes, co-founder of the UK’s first sake brewery, Kanpai London, based in Peckham, talks The Resident through the growing trend and offers a beginners guide to Japan’s most popular drink…
With Londoners growing rapidly obsessed with Japanese food, it’s no surprise that Japan’s signature rice-based drink has caught imaginations and taste buds too.
It’s clear to see why sake is so popular – it’s an intriguing enigma. It’s not quite a beer, a wine or a spirit. It’s in its own category, which means it’s extremely versatile. Flavours range from savoury to fruity. It can be enjoyed on its own – cold or hot – as well as in cocktails and with a variety of foods.
It might also be considered the healthier choice as sakes tend to be lower in calories and sugars than a lot of other alcoholic drinks, and most are gluten-free, sulphite-free and vegan. It also tends to be a little higher in strength than your average wine, typically coming in at 13-17% ABV.
If you’re new to sake, don’t worry about brands, just take a look at the style. If you prefer light and subtle white wines, look for a daiginjo as this is quite often more elegant, fruity and refined. If you like your drinks bolder and richer, go for a junmai – these tend to be more full-bodied.
If you like sweeter wines, eye up sparkling varieties or koshu (an aged variant that can have similarities to certain sherries). Or if you really want to try something different, go for a nigori, this has a different texture entirely with some rice sediment left in it – often fruity and perhaps sweeter, a good match for dessert.
If you want to enjoy sake in a fun bar set up head to 7 Tales in Farringdon or Matilda’s at My Neighbours the Dumplings in Hackney. If you want a leisurely restaurant experience, try Sakagura just off Regent Street, or Nanban in Brixton.
If you’re new to sake, don’t worry about brands, just take a look at the style. If you prefer light and subtle white wines, look for a daiginjo
Or if you want to buy and try at home, head to Hedonism, Japan Centre or Selfridges – who have specialists on hand to help you. You don’t need the signature cups – sake can be enjoyed from a wine glass. Expect to pay over £20 for a decent bottle.
And if you want something very fresh and a little different, take a look at Kanpai. We’re mixing things up and creating bigger, bolder flavours in our sakes. The sort of sakes that can stand up to a Sunday roast or your favourite curry.
Think of sour apples, to dry, woody and smokey notes. You can get your hands on our very first bottles from the end of June at Selfridges or, in the meantime, you can pledge for a bottle by supporting our crowdfunding campaign here: crowdfunder.co.uk/kanpai
Learn more about Kanpai London: