December 17, 2019
The effect of koji, Japan’s secret ingredient.
The popularity of Japanese food has uncorked an interest in sake. Made by converting rice starch into fermentable sugar by using a mould called koji (Aspergillus oryzae), sake is a completely natural, delicate alcohol drink. This mould is sprinkled onto steamed rice, that is then called koji rice, and from which the starch in the rice becomes a sugar. For it to become an alcoholic drink, the last step involves transforming the sugar into alcohol by using a yeast.
Hitoshi Utsunomiya (Ehime, 1959), a Japanese agronomist and one of the world’s greatest experts on sake, will talk about koji and its magic at Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión 2020. For 25 years he worked at Japan’s Tax Office, and for a decade researched the flavour of sake at the National Research Institute of Brewing. There, he teaches young brewers about sake. His most famous work is Flavor Terminology and Reference Standards for Sensory Analysis of Sake. He has also written A Comprehensive Guide to Japanese Sake, on pairing sake from a scientific point of view. In addition, he has been invited to judge many sake competitions all over the world.
At the same workshop, Diego Cabrera will talk about shochu (another Japanese alcoholic drink). Cabrera is an Argentinian bartender and mixology consultant who has lived in Spain for 14 years. Original, openhearted and bold, he can’t resist this ars combinatoria. He is equally enthusiastic about traditional cocktails – that he unreservedly defends – as well as creative, avant-garde ones. With or without alcohol, with champagne, beer or sake, he draws inspiration from his many travels around the world; his compiled experiences are then poured into his cocktail shaker.
In Spain, he began working at the Arts Hotel in Barcelona, and is where he met Sergi Arola. In 2010, they joined forces and opened Le Cabrera in Madrid. He then set up his own business, Twist de Naranja, going on to embark on other projects, such as his design for the cocktail menu at Platea, the Domo Lounge, and at the NH Collection Eurobuilding. Today he is at the helm of another project called Salmon Guru, in Madrid’s Barrio de las Letras neighbourhood. He has also been part of the team that reinaugurated Viva Madrid, a tavern that first opened in 1856 and became iconic during the city’s Movida movement.
Joining them at this workshop will be Pablo Alomar, Spain’s great sake expert, a Certified Sake Professional (CSP) and an Advanced Sake Professional (ASP) from the Sake Education Council in Tokyo; he has attained Level 3 from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in Sake, is a WSET Sake Instructor, and a founding member of the European Sake Institute (ESI).