May 18, 2023

TCGP S2 E16 - The Sake Somm with Jamie Ryder

On this episode of THE COCKTAIL GURU PODCAST, East meets West with hosts Jonathan & Jeffrey Pogash and global Japanophile—and Manchester, England resident—Jamie Ryder, certified sake sommelier, international drinks champion extraordinaire, and founder of Japanese culture magazine Yamato and spirits newsletter Drink to That.

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Meet Jamie Ryder, a Manchester-based consultant with a strong focus on mental health and mindfulness in the drinks and hospitality sector. Skilled in Stoicism and Epicureanism, Jamie has created the Stoic Athenium philosophical movement and works as a brand consultant, emphasizing the importance of logos, ethos, and pathos. A lover of sake and a proponent of moderation, Jamie's unique perspective brings a fresh and practical approach to mental health in the industry. His dedication to helping professionals overcome stress and find balance is what sets Jamie apart as a truly remarkable resource.

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To The Cocktail Guru podcast, a. Show about food, drink, and entertainment with. A tight focus on the good life. And all things delicious, luxurious, and fun. I'm Jonathan Pogash, bartender, author, TV personality, and founder of The Cocktail Guru.         


And I'm Jeffrey Pogash, wine and spirits, professional author, insatiable, collector of culinary, and so people tell me, an engaging and my dad.        


Dad, I'm kind of dressed to go play golf or something, I feel like. Yeah, very casual. That's great. I'm in a golfing mode. I think I texted you a picture of Ben, my son.        


Your grandchild. Yes. At the driving you know who he is. Okay. At the driving range.        


It was a lot of fun. Yes, you did. It was a great picture. And I am dressed in my philosophical shirt today. That's right.        


Which we will explain as time goes on. It will become clear as to why. I said that in a few months, or just about a month, it will be Father's Day. So happy early Father's Day, dad. Well, I'm starting early.        


I see that. What do you have? I have my drink in hand today, which is different from all the other drinks I've had during our podcasts. This is a very interesting one. And I'm smelling it, and that I could just sit here and smell this forever because it happens to be lag of woolen.        


It's lag of woolen. It is not just the regular Bottling, which is 16 years old, generally. This is the double matured Bottling from a very auspicious year. And you'll recognize the year right away. Jonathan, my son.        


Is it my birth year? It is 1979. Okay. Yeah. Which was, in fact, your birth year.        


We don't have to remind people how old I am, but I'm assuming you're drinking a Scotch whiskey because we have a Scotsman coming on the show today. Yes, well, we have an Englishman. An Englishman? Rather. Let's not insult a Great Britain.        


Yes. Okay. I know. Just let me tell you how wonderfully rich and peaty this is, okay? And I'm just going to take a sip, and then we'll get right into our guest.        


That is so good. That was just matured the second time in a Pedro Jimenez cask. So there's a lot of sherry there's, richness, there's a whiny character to it. Plus the intense peatiness of the lag of Olen, which you would normally find it's really a delicious complex single mall. So let's do the intro for our guest, shall we?        


Well, we shall. And our guest is very special today because he is a consultant. But I must say, he's more than a consultant. He's not just a consultant, he's a multifaceted consultant. I have to say, when I saw your introduction, with a lot of his accolades and background, I was like, wait a minute, is this the same person?        


Are we talking about the same person who does all of this stuff? Jonathan and I had an argument because he thought I was mixing three or four different people into the same podcast and I had to insist that I was not. And you'll see why in a minute. Our listeners and viewers, because our guest focuses on quite a few things. He focuses on mental health.        


He is a philosopher. He is the creator of a philosophical movement, as a matter of fact, called Stoic. Athenium. He is a consultant to those who are in the copywriting business. He helps with copywriting if you need that assistance.        


He's the author of horror Stories. Yes. Horror stories. He is a brand consultant who believes that logos, ethos and pathos should be part of a grand philosophy. Sorry, a brand philosophy.        


And he is the creator of drink to that. Yes. This gets so many facets to so many facets to him that we have barely scratched the surface. Obviously, there is much more to unpack during this interview. So let's welcome our in just one.        


Moment, we're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back. There's nothing better than the smell of coffee in the morning. What if you could enjoy a coffee subscription of fresh roasted specialty coffee while making a difference in the lives of farmers that grew up with? What if you also had access to a virtual coffee community of other coffee lovers and the coffee farmer and roaster? That's all part of the farm to cup Coffee Club subscription at Unleashed coffee subscribe today.        

     Okay. Yes. In one moment.        


Go ahead. Our guest is here all the way from Manchester, England, Jamie Ryder. Welcome. Well, guys, what an intro. I just got to say that's a really great way to lead me in and I'm so appreciative to be here chatting to you today around various things, philosophy, drinks and whatever else we get into.         


Oh, and you know what? I forgot to mention the first thing I was going to mention. A sake specialist. Well, yes, that's what sake special, which. I did not mention.        


That's what brings it all around. Jamie, you're a man of many faces. I'd love to, first off, talk about, well, mental health has been a big deal in the spirits industry and in general. And can you tell us a little bit about your philosophy on mental health and what sorts of things you've been working on in that regard? Yeah, absolutely.        


I always love this subject because as you rightly said, mental health in many different mediums and industries is so important from trying to do it from a well being and whether regardless of the size of the organization, it just has to be done from a top down level all the way to the bottom. And my perspective on it, I'll just start with my personal story a bit because that's where it begins. When I was a kid, I went through a few different challenges in various aspects, and it was really part of my personal history to say people have gone through these specific things, but it always needs to be spoken about in wider organizations and particularly over the pandemic many years later. This is where the philosophy aspect came in, because I'd never studied that professionally at all at school, I was aware of it, but over the pandemic, that made me feel quite anxious because we were all cut off from different people and we were all stuck inside. So I personally had to find a way to recalibrate that.        


And philosophy was that subject. It was through listening to podcasts, reading through books and learning, particularly around Stoicism, which we'll also talk about in a little bit. But that was the catalyst for me around mental health that made me realize that this is so applicable to my personal story. But it can also help other people who might be going through similar issues, and particularly around hospitality as well, where there's a lot of stress going on. The industry is suffering from all these lockdowns and losing business and that is just one particular medium to look at it through.        


But from a holistic standpoint, all of these techniques and practices are just for the individual, but also for that wider community as well. Go ahead, dad. No, I was just going to say there's a lot of stress everywhere and it's philosophy that has gotten me through life as well, because I started studying philosophy when I was in college many years ago. So I know just how important that is and how it can contribute to one's mental health. And whenever I do trainings for bartenders, I always like to say, well, I train them and I tell them this.        


I tell them we are always so used to taking care of other people in the hospitality industry that we forget about taking care of ourselves, which is a huge thing. So Jamie, what are some of these techniques that we could possibly utilize to assist us? Yeah, there are a couple of variations on this and I really like looking at two schools of thought called Stoicism and Epicureanism and they are very interwoven together. But the Stoic aspect comes from at the very beginning. It is just focusing what you can control and what you can't control.        


And if you just imagine being in a high stress bar environment where there's a lot of things going on around you, you've got orders, you've got drinks to take, cocktails to make. That philosophy personally for me is a great way to take a step back and try to take the stress out of it. And there's a wonderful technique that I like to use called the view from above. And that is essentially looking at things from a top picture view where you might pause for a second and think people who are going around me in the same environment, they are probably going through similar issues, whether they're stressed out or they may be anxious about certain things. So you'd imagine by saying, right, I'll take a step outside of myself first, see these people on my same level, but then take it a step further.        


By then, in the city or the place where you're at, more people are probably going through the same things as well. And then finally you'll imagine that you're looking down at the whole world and then you're all connected by this element of humanity that all binds us together. And then slowly you'll come back down into yourself. And the idea is that once you've done this mental work, you might be in a better position to actually say that stress is probably not that bad, or it wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it was in the grand scheme of things. And then you may be able to go about your day as well.        


Another one is called the premeditation of Adversity, which is basically trying to prepare for a possible scenario that might not come up yet, but from a resilience building exercise. And what I mean by that is you might be going into the bar to create a lot of different cocktails and you think, what if this happens? Or what does that happen? But you can try to say, if this happened, then I could prepare for it. And then by doing that again and again in your head, you'll have already done the mental work to say, yes, something might have gone wrong, but regardless, I'll still face it and that's fine.        


It's perfectly okay for things not to go right now. Going over into Epicureanism, this is really interesting because I think from a hospitality perspective, when somebody says they are an Epicurean, we might associate it with like fine food, drinks and all of that stuff. Whereas the actual Hellenistic philosophy developed by Epicurus was the opposite. It was actually about moderation because Epicurus wanted to go into the garden, which was his philosophical community, to step back from the world and try to live unseen. Or a bit more moderatively, where Stoicism is similar to that, but that was more about being engaged in politics and being out in the world.        


But if you think about it from like a Somalier perspective, if you say you're an Epicure in Somalier, then you could say, I'm not trying to get people drunk with this wine. It is about teaching them moderation. Or you could use this in like a no and low context because obviously no and low is a great and up and coming category in itself. But you can combine that by saying, I want to do an Epicurean tasting event based on moderation. And the practices in this particular school are very applicable to that idea of moderation and cutting back on drinking.        


So there are just some connections that I see with hospitality and philosophy. Yes, Epicurious said we should all pursue pleasure and flee pain. And in that respect, fleeing pain means, as you just said, Jamie, it means moderation. It means doing things in moderation, not overeating or over drinking, but doing things moderately. And as you said, that's what Epicureus was all about.        


Very interesting philosophical movement, as is. Stoicism. Yeah. I love this. I love talking about this sort of stuff.        


And I think what you were saying about being prepared if you're going in for a shift and you know you're going to be slammed and you know it's a Friday, Saturday night, if you just go in there mentally prepared. And you go in there with the mindset that other people are coming in with their own guests, are coming in with their own shit, the other employees are coming in with their own crap. And that's them. And then you're you I don't know, I really like I really like thinking about this sort of stuff. Exactly.        


And what I love about these two particular schools of thought is they are very practical. Because when I first thought of philosophy, I thought, oh, it was quite dry and it's just like sitting in an armchair, just having a conversation without actually living your life. But philosophy to me is that learnt thing. It's not just talking about it, it's showing up and doing these exercises or living what you believe. And you don't always have to articulate it, you could just lead by example, but then you can look at these practices from a leadership standpoint as well, and just embrace them as you try to lead a good example for your staff or whoever you're trying to talk to.        


And someone once told me, and this is a really good thing to keep in mind, is to follow your fear. So the technique is if you go into a situation and you are fearful or you think something's going to happen, then you just ask yourself in your mind, and then what?        


So, for instance, if you're walking into a shift at a bar and you're like, oh man, I know that someone's going to come in and complain about my drinks, then you say to yourself, okay, so someone comes in, complains about your drink, and then what? Well, I'll remake the drink and then what? And then the person will like it. Great. You've completely followed your fear.        


Yeah. It's like saying, what's the worst thing that could possibly happen? And you think about it in your mind and you resolve it. And I just wanted to add that also reminds me of improv as well, that idea of like yes. And so loads of different ways you can look at it.        


Yeah, exactly.        


Yeah. There's so much involved. It reminds me of your mentor, Gary Regan. Jonathan yes. Much of what Jamie is saying reminds me of Gary Regan, who was very much involved in Mindfulness in Bartending.        


He was a great bartender and an author, who we follow, used to follow very closely until he passed away. But we still value his writings and his philosophy. That's right, yeah. If you're not familiar with him, Jamie, you should definitely look him up. Gary Regan, and I think he was from around where you're from?        


I think he was from Manchester.        


The same accent. We're all set your philosophers then. And he grew up in a bar. His parents owned a bar, I believe, in Manchester. And that's how he grew up.        


That's right. Actually, we're going to take a quick break right now and we'll be right back.        


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It's a great deal that's shop the 10% off with Code Guru 23. Cheers. And we're back. Jamie, can we talk about the spirits connection and how you got into sake and became intrigued with it?        


I assume that was it something that came out of the pandemic also. So this is quite interesting to me, because if we take that wider spirituality and philosophical route, I'm also quite fascinated by the east and Japanese culture generally, so I actually have a website where I write about Japanese culture and that was the catalyst for that. So I started writing about sake and the drinks and the food as well, particularly in the UK, so that was my interest. And I have still yet to go to Japan, but my idea was that if I can't go there yet, then I'll bring it to me by writing about it. And then the more I did these articles, the more I wanted to learn about sake.        


And we're quite blessed in Manchester in particular, where in the Northwest, we are absolutely leading the way for sake and Japanese drinks in the other part of the country, whereas it's mostly focused down in London. So I went on a sake tasting with the person who actually ended up training me in sake as well. He did it so well. That is a gentleman called John from the Northern Wine School, and that just fascinated me. So that started a rabbit Hole, where I wanted to learn about it, as well as Shotu and the Japanese spirits as well, because I know you've also had 1st Reel Entertainment on as well, and he was another mentor for me by just listening to him and reading his book.        


So just all of that came together where this is just so great to talk about this and then it is just breaking down the stereotypes about what sake is and what it isn't, and saying that it's a drink that can be had in many different scenarios. And the same goes with Japanese spirits as well. Yeah. And I do want to confirm one thing before we move on. Gary Regan was born in Rochdale.        


Rochdale? Greater Manchester. Oh, wow. Yeah. That is very close to where I grew up.        


So, yeah, I do have to check him out. Yeah. Rochdale. Yes, that's right. His family had a bar.        


Was it in Rochdale? Maybe. Probably, yeah, probably was. Or Manchester.        


I love sake and I love Japanese culture as well. I only had the pleasure of visiting once for a very short amount of time, and I didn't even visit any sake producers, but I had plenty of sake. And what is a misconception of sake that you can share with us? Oh, we'll be here all day. Well, I'll just say the one thing that comes into my mind, and I'll say this from a perspective of people who have had a few different types of sake, because you can get some purists and you can get some people who only like specific things.        


But generally, all sake is great sake because you do get the premium kind, where you've got ginjo and jun mai, where people might say, jun mai? Is that pure rice? There's no added alcohol there. And then they might only assume that oh, because pure sake, that must be the best kind. Right.        


Or the top level, like Jun Mai, dai, ginger, that must be the ultimate type of sake. But you can get table sake footsuchu that is just as good and more cost effective. It just depends on your mood and actually who you're with. So I would just always say all sake is good sake. Never be hesitant just to try something or just don't assume that something on a label means it's going to be better than the other thing that you see.        


Yeah, and there's so many misconceptions about shochu as well, which is something Jonathan and I have been studying recently, thanks to 1st Reel Entertainment, and they're both sake and shochu, both wonderful, wonderful drinks that everybody should pay attention to and taste as much as possible. And you even created a book, did you not, Jamie? A book on the bars that are focusing on sake, that are promoting sake in Manchester. A book called Kanpai.        


I think that was an article that I wrote, actually, and, yes, it was an article. A guide to the sake scene. That's right, yes. But saying that, I actually do have a couple of free resources that I do like to give to people around The Beginner's Guide To Sake and shot you as well, just to help add that a little bit of educational piece. But certainly, yes, with that article, that is a list of bars and restaurants in Manchester that are promoting sake and doing it in different ways.        


But again, that's another strand of thought for me. I like to write those kind of articles where it's putting different drinks in different parts of the world, which is where my newsletter drink to. That ties in from categories of all kinds. Wonderful. And is it true that is Manchester?        


Based on what I've been reading about what you've said, it seems as though Manchester is now the leader of the sake movement in the UK, even outpacing London as a great center for sake. I would certainly say that is the case in the northwest, but because London being what London is, that is always still going to be the epicenter, because that's where a lot of the high rollers are and everything going on there. But because sake is still quite a niche thing, and Japanese drinks to an extent, too, it is nice just to see it developing outside of London, because, again, even people in the UK might think that London is the be all and all of the country, but it's not. You've got Wales, you've got Ireland, you've got Scotland and you've got the rest of England, too, all trying to uplift the community and other categories in different ways as well. Jamie, we would be remiss if we did not bring up your horror connection.        


And I'm fascinated by this. And the sweatshirt hoodie that you're wearing has some sort of horrific character on it. I'm not entirely sure what that is. So you've written horror books and how did you get into that genre? Yeah, well, I'll put on another hat from a very young age.         


I love creative writing and fiction. That's actually where I started a lot of my creative work. And horror was a genre that I just really got fascinated by. And I think, looking back now, it was more of that psychology element where we talked about a bit about fear before and I think that idea, as humans fear, is quite a complex emotion for us now. Some ways we could want to face our fear and challenge them, and horror might be that medium for it.        


And the horror world that I've actually created in this context is called the frontier. So that is a horror Western world, which I always like to describe as a mix of the Witcher meets Red Dead Redemption, where you've got like a supernatural world of monsters and there's cowboys and various other things going on. And for a drinks connection as well, I've actually created different drinks in that world. Or I've put whiskey and rum and other spirits in certain levels of importance. Now, to take that for example, whiskey is like a godly drink in that world where it's like the nectar of the gods, literally, but whereas rum is still just as important, but like, in only certain parts of the frontier and there's like a bit of a rivalry going on between these two organizations that run them.        


So that's like a completely different train of thought, but that's part of the appeal to me. It's actually doing a constant world building exercise while also writing a lot of different stories in this world, whether it's novellas, short stories, and I've got a plan to write more long form content and novels in the future. It's just when I get around to it.        


And where can we read some of these stories, Jamie? So I would say go to Talesofthefrontier that has got all of the world building elements and a few short stories on there. Wonderful. And the horror genre has really had a comeback in the last several years. And I actually think that maybe the pandemic had a fair amount to do with that because, okay, we've basically lived through a horror movie, and now let's read stories about it where, hey, we've been through everything and anything, and so nothing can faze us now.        


So let's let it all go. Let's let it out by creating horror stories.        


I've recently gotten into movies like nope and get out. Have you seen those? Yeah, of course. And brilliant filmmaking, I think. And it's not necessarily gory horror, it's really cerebral horror.        


I do tend to enjoy that kind of horror stuff the most myself. Like, two things that come to mind for me are it follows and Smile. I don't know if you saw Smile on an airplane, and yes, it was a little freaky. Yeah. So it's that encroaching sense of dread for me, where those films and those kind of stories really encapsulate that fear of the unknown that I think is there on a very primal level for a lot of us.        


And that is what a lot of us really fear at the end of the day. But there's always different ways to deal with that. Yeah, but also in the movie Smile, I was actually surprised by the ending because generally speaking, I think there is closure, unless you've got, of course, a sequel coming. So maybe that's the plan, but that just makes it even more horrific. Yeah.        


There's another topic that I wanted to touch on before we part company, and that is copywriting. Copywriting. When it comes to describing cocktails, Jamie, you feel that most bars and restaurants aren't properly describing their cocktails. They're not making them as appealing as they could be. And I'm sure that's one of the things you help them with when they come to you for consulting advice.        


Also, you feel that the cocktail itself should be generally very appealing and very eye catching. And those are two elements that you think are crucial to the proper sale and promotion of cocktails in bars and restaurants. Absolutely. And just to touch on this a little bit, I think storytelling is the key here, and there are different ways to look at it. But just to take the cocktail from the appearance, yes, that is part of the wider story.         


But if you're thinking more on the written copy, side, then you can look at it in a few ways. I love looking at drink menus. Like, I want to read the story and to actually dive into the ingredients. And I've looked at menus that I think are pretty good, others that are a bit so so. But what I look for in that copy sense is, tell me about the ingredients that really say, what is in this?        


Even if it's just like, very down to earth, it says, this is the ingredients, then that's great, because you just want to tell the person straight away what to expect. But if it's part of, like, a wider narrative or a theme of the bar, then I love seeing little touches of saying, oh, we thought of this when we thought of it, or emotive language that actually tells the story, like, really of the moment copy that says, this is what you can feel when I drink this. But if you look at websites, for example, with spirits or cocktail websites, it's interesting to tell a story there as well, particularly from product descriptions and on labels, because it is saying, this is where this particular ingredient could come from. So in my head, it's like from a psychological perspective, it's saying, oh, this consumer could be transported on a journey now to that part of the world, because you've actually said, this is the story of the culture that this cocktail is from, or this spirit. And on the website as well, it might say, this is all our distributors, or distillers that this is a part of their story as well.        


So it's doing it in a very story led approach, where you can see the beginning, middle or an end. But there's always the idea of the product and the feeling that somebody's going to get by tasting these products. Yes. So we should be telling stories when it comes to cocktails, making them mouth watering in our descriptions. Sure.        


There's so many different yeah. It's the oldest form of communication. Yes. Storytelling. Yeah, absolutely.        


And we're going to leave stories, cocktail stories. We're going to leave it at that because we've run out of time. And Jamie, we really appreciate your time and I love what you're talking, what you're doing and what you say, what you have to say. I think it really resonates with me and I think it'll resonate with our listeners and viewers. So thank you very much and you are indeed a complex human being.        


There's much more to come. Jamie Ryder. Well, think of me as like, a very deep cocktail. It takes a while to get the taste in, but you're always going to have an interesting experience and I do appreciate your time. Guys, I always love listening to this podcast and keep up the great work.        


Thank you. Thank you, Jamie. Thank you. It's great to have you on. Thank you.        


Tipple time is brought to you in part by perfect puree of napa. Valley and Glenn Warrengie. Hey, everyone. It's another Tipple time segment on the Cocktail Guru podcast. And you may notice that I am here in my kitchen if you're watching.        


Yes, this is my kitchen, where all the culinary and mixology magic happens as well as in my home bar. All right, well, I've got a great product from Perfect Puree that I wanted to highlight today, and it is their peach ginger. And literally, I dream about this peach ginger puree. They released it just about a year. Ago, and it works so well in cocktails.        


And what I wanted to do was. Make a little smash for you, kind of a peach ginger whiskey smash. So we'll go right ahead and do it. I'm just going to cut half of my lemon here, and I'll squeeze half of a lemon inside of my mixing glass just like this. Okay, I will add Glenn Moringi.        


X, folks, this is a really lovely mixing scotch whiskey from Glenn Morangi. It is a newly released product. It is made for mixing. It's really nice in highball drinks, martini drinks, rocks drinks smashes, which is what I'm doing today. So I'm going to add 2oz.        


So it's a really nice hefty little pour. A hefty little pour. That's an oxymoron, isn't it? And I've got my perfect, puree peach ginger. And I'm doing an ounce.        


Actually, I'm doing 2oz. So it's basically equal parts. It's just three ingredients. And there's just a touch of sweetness in this peach ginger. And it really goes a long way in this drink.        


I don't have to add any simple syrup, just a touch of citrus to kind of balance everything out. So now we'll give it a shake.        


All right. And I have a nice stemless wine glass, which is what this is right over here. And I'll just pour this out into my glass. I smell that peach. I smell that ginger.        


I smell the whiskey. And we'll do a lemon wheel as a nice garnish. Look at that. Just a nice thin lemon wheel. Just lay that right on top.        


That is beautiful. It's quite summery, and that's really what. This drink reminds me of. It is pure liquid summer. I'm going to take a little taste.        


So good. That's what I'm calling it. Liquid Summer. Sound good? Cheers.        


Tipple time is brought to you in part by Glenn Warrengie and perfect puree of Napa Valley on the next Cocktail Blue Podcast. Yeah, something that has always bothered me about tiki.        


It says only one per customer on this.        


I'm glad we got that straightened up. Making me thirsty. On the next Cocktail Guru podcast. That does it for today's show. If you enjoy what we do, please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast.        


You can also support the show with a small monthly donation to help sustain future episodes. Just click on the donate button at the top of our website and choose your donation amount. To learn more about our guests, visit or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. The Cocktailguru podcast is produced by 1st Reel Entertainment and distributed by Eats Drinks TV, a service of the center for Culinary Culture, home of the Cocktail Collection, and is available via Anchor, Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon and wherever you listen to your favorite shows.        



Jamie RyderProfile Photo

Jamie Ryder

Drinker with a writing problem

Jamie Ryder is certified sake sommelier, drinks copywriter and Japanese culture enthusiast.

He's the founder of UK-based Yamato Magazine, a publication that celebrates Japanese culture in various forms and Drink To That, a newsletter that champions drink categories from all over the world.