For goodness' Sake: While sushi and sashimi are now old friends on British menus, Japanese drinks have taken longer to catch on

Tastes and appetites are changing fast, but it'll be all rice on the night

Roll over, sushi: Britons are developing a new love affair with Japanese drink. Sake is an increasingly popular fixture on menus as bars and restaurants capitalise on the popularity of Japanese food and the drink's versatility in complementing other cuisines. New courses have even been launched to bring the nation's sommeliers up to speed.

Hakkasan Group's London restaurants say that sales have increased by 50 per cent in the past three years, with the sake lists at Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Hakkasan and the dim sum teahouse Yauatcha doubling over the same period and set to expand further. Sales at the wholesaler and retailer Amathus Drinks are up 35 per cent year on year.

A fermented alcoholic drink made from rice, often called "rice wine" despite the brewing process being closer to that of beer, sake comes in different form. It has a typical alcohol content of between 15 and 17 per cent, although it can be as much as 22 per cent. Importers to Britain are focusing on premium sake – the more the rice is polished during production, the more elegant and pure the drink.

Bibendum Wine, which sells to restaurants, bars and retailers, has introduced 15 sakes from four producers in Japan, three of which had not exported to the UK before. "Sushi and sashimi have already gone from being a niche menu item in Japanese restaurants to a mainstay of every high street in the country," said Gareth Groves, Bibendum's head of marketing. "There is no reason sake can't do exactly the same thing."

Oliver Hilton-Johnson, the director of the online business Tengu Sake, where sales have risen faster than expected since launching in May last year, said UK establishments were taking inspiration from the United States, particularly New York and California. He said that there the "versatile" drink had been paired with non-Japanese food and used in cocktails for a decade.

Britons are loving sake Britons are loving sake
Sake's rise has prompted the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which trains drinks professionals and enthusiastic amateurs, to launch its first sake courses in London in November after completing a final pilot earlier this month. The courses will also run in New York and Hong Kong.

However, one barrier to sake's success in the UK is its price, according to Natsuki Kikuya, a former sake sommelier who founded the PR and education agency Museum of Sake last year. "At the moment a bottle of cheaper sake could cost £20 in a shop," said Ms Kikuya, whose family's brewery, Akita Shurui Seizoh Co, started exporting sake to the UK last month."

The new-found popularity of sake in the West is good news for Japanese producers, who face decreasing domestic consumption as the country develops more Western tastes.

However, this fall has not deterred Arran Brewery on the Scottish Isle of Arran. Subject to planning permission, it will start constructing facilities next month to enable it to export sake to Japan.

ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before