Sake takes UK by storm as Japan’s national drink goes mainstream

No longer just drunk for courage at karaoke clubs, the ‘food-friendly’ rice spirit is becoming a first choice of connoisseurs

When sommelier Erika Haigh opened the UK’s first independent sake bar, in London’s West End in 2019, passersby would wander in and try to order milkshakes, bewildered by the unfamiliar drink advertised in the window.

“Today, that confusion has largely disappeared,” said Haigh, who has since opened Mai Sake, a shop offering tasting events and meals. “You can now go on a sake bar crawl across London, and you’ll find it featured on the beverage lists of many restaurants – including non-Japanese establishments.”

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