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Sake and Food pairing events plans

After getting my Kikisake-shi qualification (see my post 1 and post 2 about the course) I am eager to put it in action. One of the ideas I’ve got is to do a series of events in London next year to pair sake with various foods and cuisines. I’m thinking about calling them Sugidama Sake & Food Discovery events. I have already spoken to a couple of Italian restaurants and a cheese shop about using them as potential venues for the events. I am also thinking about other cuisines such as Russian, Spanish, French, you name it.

There are a few things I have to decide upon however:


Restaurants look like the best venues for the Sugidama sake pairing events. They have food, facilities, glassware and trained stuff if required. They are visible and I could use leaflets to advertise the event for their current clientele. However, restaurants are usually very reluctant to let you bring your own alcohol. They either insist on using their bar or will charge corkage fees, which adds to the cost of the event. There are BYOB (“bring you own bottle”) restaurants in London but the choice is quite limited.

Hotels is another convenient type of venues, I could use. They usually have function rooms suiting for this type of events, trained staff, glassware etc. Using a function room provides more privacy than I could get at a restaurant. Hotels also have their own catering facilities, which I could use for the event. However, the cost is the main issue here. Hotel catering could be quite expensive and hotels usually don’t allow you to bring your own food. I will have also pay for the room and other compulsary services. Overall, it could be quite pricey.

Wine shops are another option. There are shops which have facilities they use to host wine tasting events. If the sake I would present is sold at the shop, people could buy it straight away if they liked it. I could also use my own catering, which is less expensive compared to restaurants. Wine shops usually have their own glassware.

However, there are a few drawbacks. First of all, the working hours of wine shops are usually limited. Shops generally close after 8 pm, so if I want to host the event after work (which I do), it could be an issue. Shops also are less private and in terms of catering, everything should be already prepared and generally limited to cold food. So the choice of a cuisine might be a bit constrained. I will also have to bring my own staff if I need more people to serve sake.

There are of course other options such as function rooms at various organisations. In the past I attended a lot of events at various societies (like the Institution of Civil Engineers or the Royal Institute of British Architects for example). They all have function rooms of different sizes. There are also various private clubs which provide rooms for hire and you can arrange your own catering, staff etc.

So now my wife and I are researching and assessing various options in terms of venues  to make Sugidama sake events work. 

Alcohol Licence

It’s another thing I have to investigate. I guess I can use the venue’s licence if it has one. However, I’m still not sure whether I need to have a licence myself as I’m going to charge people for the sake I want to provide. Technically I am not going to sell sake, rather than provide it for tasting. But still, it’s a grey area for me at the moment. So if anyone has any knowledge of that, please either leave a comment below the post or send me a message through email, Twitter, FB or Instagram (I’m not on SnapChat, sorry).


While my blog is gradually getting popularity, it’s still not in the top of search results for sake. I will have to use pay-per-click advertising on Google and social media to promote the Sugidama sake events. However, it could be a good thing as it will give me more visibility as more people will see my website and probably sign up for a newsletter and start reading my posts.

There are also all other technical issues I need to think through. I also would like to attract sake producers and retailers to sponsor the events as it will be excellent opportunities for them to present their sake to a slightly different audience of people who are getting into sake at the moment. Overall, I’m very excited about these opportunities.

Sugidama Sake & Curry Discovery Night

So to test the waters I am trying to pull off a sake and curry pairing event on November 23 at Cinnamon Bricklane restaurant. It’s not a very obvious combination, I know. One of my Japanese friends pointed out that curry might spoil the sake as it’s not subtle enough. But let’s be bold and try it! I’m sure that there are sake, which will go very well with curry and the only way to discover is to try.

Sugidama Sake ^ Curry Discovery Night
Cinnamon Bricklane

I would not mind to supply the sake myself and charge people just one fee for the event to make it breakeven. It would be the best option for everyone as it will provide a variety of sake and those who generally don’t buy sake will not have to stress out to find where and what to buy.  But I’m still not sure about the licencing issue. Also there are logistic questions. The original idea, when everyone just brings a bottle of sake is less inclusive but easier to organise and potentially will result in a greater choice of sake.

In any case, it’s not much time left so I’d rather go withthe BYOB option for now (which is £15.95 for food + a bottle of sake) ratherthan the all included one (which according to my estimations is £45 per person,which include the set menu and five 100-120ml glasses of 3 types of proper nihonshu,1 yuzu sake and 1 umeshu.

I have created the event page on Facebook and on the Events page of my blog. I really really want to do it thus I am writing this post to give myself more motivation to pull it off! Sign up for the event and come on November 23 to Cinnamon Bricklane at 19:30-20:00. I will push this event into social media again and wait until the end of the next week to decide how I want to do it. Please leave your comments if you have any suggestions or would like to come!



Alex is a London-based sake blogger, podcaster, IWC Sake judge and sake advocate. He is a publisher of the Sugidama Blog website and a host of the Sugidama Podcast. Alex has an International Kikisake-shi (Sake Specialist) qualification from SSI (Sake Service Institute). He sees his mission as expanding the awareness of Japanese sake among as many people as possible and helping the growing community of sake lovers to bring together beautiful Japanese sake and non-Japanese food as a way to build a better understanding between our cultures.

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