Singapore Sake Sommelier Association Introductory Sake Professional Course
The Beverage Clique, founded in Singapore, is the syndicated sake course licensed for the U.K.’s Sake Sommelier Association (SSA) as well as the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Now those in Singapore can learn the same material as trained sake sommeliers without the need to fly to Japan, the U.S. or U.K. In fact, with their course licensing from multiple beverage associations, you can learn about whiskey and wine as well!
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on one of The Beverage Clique’s SSA Introductory Sake Professional (Level 1) courses with senior instructor Sean Oh. Sean, a former Singapore Airlines sommelier, is one of only a handful of people in Singapore with advanced certifications from both WSET and SSA.
Wearing his many certification pins with pride on his bartending apron, Sean started the course with a caveat – “The 3-hour course would really be just a high-level overview of the very basics of sake along with multiple tastings.” Costing a reasonable SG$280, the three-hour Saturday afternoon course was hosted at O-KU Japanese Tapas Bar, which was a perfect venue for the small class size of less than 10 people.
For those seasoned sake drinkers or restaurant servers looking to officially earn a sommelier certificate after passing a test, you would probably be best suited to take the much more expensive SSA Certified Sake Sommelier (Level 2) course or the soon to be launched WSET sake course. With SSA, the Level 1 course, which doesn’t include a test, isn’t a prerequisite for Level 2.
While SSA Introductory Sake Professional (Level 1) is designed to help trade professionals acquire basic Japanese Sake selection skills for retail shops and restaurants, the majority of the attendees weren’t professionally involved with sake. Although the course usually has more participants, besides myself, there was another part-time F&B journalist, two novice sake lovers and one alcohol retailer.
I was pleased that the course offered an opportunity for me as a sake enthusiast to advance my understanding of sake in English through basic theory and practical tasting with pairings. While I already knew some of the content shared, it was a good reminder and I definitely quite a lot of new material. As you’d expect if you’ve read any of my earlier articles, I particularly enjoyed the paring tasting portion of the course!
Sean had selected three representative sakes of different brands and types from two regions, Miyagi and Niigata. Making the experience all the more unique compared to the traditional sake tasting flights you’d get in an Izakaya, the Sotenden Tokubetsu Junmai and Matsunoi Tokubetsu Honjozo were served both cold and warm so we could experience the impact of warming on the taste. However, my favourite by far was the Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi Junmai Ginjo.
Interestingly, though, many of my fellow classmates preferred the SMV 0 taste of the Sotenden sake, as the Jozen (as well as the Matsunoi were both SMV +5). The rice milling percentage and alcohol content for all three sakes were about the same on average 58% and 15% respectively.
Having never eaten at the newly opened O-KU Japanese Tapas Bar before, I was quite pleased with the quality of the food served with the pairing, especially since they are positioned more as a sake bar than a restaurant.
In fact, as the Level 1 course finished up shortly before early dinnertime, my family and I decided to stay on after the course to have our dinner at O-KU and absolutely loved a number of the dishes with a bottle from their sake menu. For those that love Japanese beer and whisky as well as sake, I’d definitely recommend the place for after work drinks and food with colleagues, especially if you work near Telok Ayer Street.