December 2005

PRESS RELEASE:

Bloomberg Breaking News: WOKKA SAKi
Bloomberg Radio: interview with WOKKA Marketing Director - click here to listen MP3

Vodka Meets Sake in New East-West Fusion Drink: Elin McCoy
2005-11-30 00:06 (New York)

(Elin McCoy writes on wine and spirits for Bloomberg News.
The opinions expressed are her own.)

By Elin McCoy
Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Several years ago, Tim Day, the founder and marketing director of a London beverage company, was reading a magazine story about American snowboarders drinking sake at Mount Zao, a Japanese ski resort, when he got the brilliant idea to mix the traditional rice wine with vodka. ``The article told how a powerful West wind from Siberia
sweeps across the Sea of Japan between January and March and carries the freezing vapor to the Asahi mountains,'' Day told`me. ``When it hits the huge conifers on the slopes of Mount Zao, it coats them with layers of snow and ice, creating wild, distorted shapes and an epic mountain-scape found only in this one place. The trees are known as `snow monsters,' or juhyo.''

This East meets West tale captivated Day and made a great back story for his new creation, Wokka Saki (wokka is Japanese for vodka).

While Day, 36, had already created several natural, non- alcoholic beverages for his company, Extreme Drinks, such as Extreme Enduro, a sports drink made with plant protein, and Extreme Chill Out, which is designed to smooth out your wrinkled, over-clubbed soul ... this was his first spirits bottling.

`Wokka'

Seeking the help of a master blender and flavor specialist, it took Day 500 tries and three months to come up with the winning recipe: a drink that was 80 percent triple-micro- distilled handcrafted English grain vodka, 20 percent fine Japanese honjozo sake, and a handful of ``mystical'' Asian fruits ... he won't say which ones.
Well before its official U.S. launch in Florida in 2004, a test bottling won a double gold medal in the flavored vodka category in the San Francisco International Spirits competition, as it did again in 2005.

Smooth and delicate, elegant and stylish, with hints of peach, apricot and passion fruit, Wokka Saki is clearly an elixir in tune with the times. Enthusiasm continues to build for all flavored and infused spirits, especially vodkas.

Among the latest entries from spirits companies are the hot-pink X-Rated Fusion Liqueur, a blend of ultra premium French vodka, mango, passion fruit and Provencal blood oranges, and the blue-tinged Magellan Gin, created from triple distilled neutral spirits, spring water and a mix of botanicals that includes deep blue Iris petals. And from Minnesota, there's Shaker's Rose
Vodka, a surprisingly good pink luxury assemblage of alcohol, roses, honey and vanilla.

The new bar chefs and ``mixologists'' (they used to be called bartenders) are happy to oblige this passion for fusion, introducing exotic spirits and fruits into their concoctions.
We're way past the chocolate martini.

Blending Trend

Unlike simple flavored bottlings such as lemony Absolut Citron, Wokka Saki and other hybrids combine two different alcohol products as well as the requisite packet of secret flavorings.
French Hpnotiq, for example, blends triple distilled vodka with aged Cognac and tropical fruit juices. Bacardi Ciclon is a combo of various gold rums spiked with aged blue agave Tequila and natural lime. These are almost cocktails in themselves but normally are used as a base rather than served straight.

Sake Smoothies

Surely the craze for sake cocktails that began some six years ago at hip bars in California primed us for a sake vodka spirit. Though purists may shudder, the Japanese rice wine has become a white spirit substitute in basic bar drinks like the martini and pina colada, popular for its unusual taste as well as its lower alcohol content (15 percent) and the fact that it's largely free of congeners, those byproducts of alcohol fermentation that cause hangovers.
It's the key ingredient in dozens of brightly colored smoothies like the Orange Sake at San Francisco's Anzu (sake, Skyy citrus vodka, Grand Marnier and orange juice). Some would say it was only a matter of time until sake and vodka met in the bottle.
But no new spirit gets anywhere without a targeted marketing campaign these days. With its East-West theme, Wokka Saki seemed the obvious drinks sponsor for the opening night party at the English National Opera for Anthony Minghella's ``Madame Butterfly'' in early November.
Guests plucked cocktails named Puccini's Butterfly (Wokka Saki, Chambord raspberry and Midori melon liqueurs with splashes of grapefruit and cranberry juice) and Cio Cio San .. after the main character .. (Wokka Saki, mango juice, lychee liqueur, a splash of cranberry juice and half a lime) from a conveyor belt style mobile bar.

Limos, Strapless Dresses

To create excitement in the U.S., Day's U.S. public relations firm staged ``Operation Kimono,'' in which ``Asian-esque'' women in black strapless dresses arrived in stretch limos at trend-setting bars in a half dozen cities. Out they popped, carrying bottles of Wokka Saki and flanked by military style bodyguards, also clad in black. The act heads to the
Caribbean this winter.
Naturally, top mixologists have created signature cocktails using Wokka Saki. My vote goes to the Shy Eskimo (Wokka Saki, cranberry juice and soda over ice). But London's Zuma restaurant is offering the ultimate buzz worthy hedonistic cocktail, the Emperor, which combines Wokka Saki and France's great and wildly expensive sweet wine Chateau d'Yquem. For 22 pounds, ($38) I'd
rather drink my glass of Chateau d'Yquem straight.

Day likes to think of Wokka Saki as a bridge between East and West, but so far it hasn't reached Asia. While he says ``it needs to get traction in the West first,'' he's confident ``Operation Kimono'' will play in Tokyo.

To contact the writer of this column:
Elin McCoy at emcwine@aol.com

To contact Tim Day: tim@wokkasaki.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at (1)(212) 617-3486 or
mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net

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