If there’s a bullpen for Haute 100 candidates, Seth Podell (above right) is warming up in it right now. Just over six months ago, the Angeleno and his business partner Brad Paddock (above left) introduced Rock Saké—the first English-branded American-made sake (in Junmai Ginjo and unfiltered Nigori varieties). In that short time, Rock Sake has become available in over 200 restaurants, bars and markets in California, Nevada and Illinois—including Michael Mina’s XIV, Thompson Beverly Hills, Danny Masterson and Gerard Butler’s Shin Hollywood, Koi, Katsu-Ya, Katana, RockSushi several Northern California Whole Foods, and even Chicago’s Wrigley Field!
Among the celebs who have offered unsolicited endorsements: Fergie, Ryan Seacrest, and Neil Patrick Harris.
But as Podell points out, “Our goal is not to be the sake of choice among other sakes, but the sake in every restaurant.” This is where his little idea is particularly compelling. Seeing sake as pairable with virtually every cuisine (“Except maybe Italian,” he jokes) the LA-based company is aiming for nothing less than making sake available everywhere, specifically by emphasizing its strength as a cocktail mixer. Some of the great Rock Sake-based drinks they’ve created, or that have been created by creative bartenders, include the Kimori (with gin, and a rimmer of Maldon seasalt with nori and dried wasabi powder), Cloud 9 (with grapefruit and a sugared rim) and Cherry Blossom (with cherry and lemon — above). It also goes quite well in mojitos, caipirinhas and saketinis.
Just a few years ago, Podell was a wine distribution veteran looking for an opportunity when he happened to be taken on a memorable sake tasting flight during a lengthy Geisha House meal. Trying to remember the name of a single thing he drank made him realize that “people order by brand, not by category.” That led him on a quest to Japan and study of sake brewing which actually finally led him to a master sake brewer in Oregon, with whom he spent 18 months perfecting the product.
Though some sake snobs have shunned the thought of an American-made sake, RockSake’s domestic brewing (with Sacramento valley rice, Oregon mountain spring water and Japanese koji mold and yeast) guarantees it is fresher than imported sake, by as much as 6 months. The Ginjo, it’s worth noting, also has 50% fewer calories than Vodka, and is gluten-free and sulfite-free.
Oh, and one other interesting note: at Geisha House, where Podell got his inspiration, he says Rock Sake is now the #1 seller.