British singer Jay Sean will appear at a D.C. club this weekend — but not to perform his 2009 hit single, “Down.” The international artist is going to Washington to sell sparkling sake in a can.
Jay Sean is listed as a co-owner and chief cultural officer for a new beverage called Smoothsail, and celeb-friendly nightclub Heist is hosting a launch party for the brand at its pricey outdoor pop-up on the Kennedy Center’s rooftop terrace. The sparkling soiree is Saturday, August 14, from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Reservations are required. Many slots are already sold out, but options start at $400 for a table that includes admission for six and two bottles of Moët & Chandon Champagne. VIP cabanas ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 are all claimed.
Smoothsail comes in two flavors, berry and peach, and clocks in at 7 percent ABV. While it’s stronger than most hard seltzers, it’s less than PepsiCo’s recently announced Hard Mtn Dew, which is 9 percent alcohol, and is half of Four Loko’s infamous hard seltzer, which is a whopping 14 percent ABV.
A news release hypes Smoothsail as a “globally inspired alternative” in an already crowded canned beverage market. The 2019 summer explosion of White Claw seltzer and the expansion of the hard seltzer market has birthed nearly variations ranging from “seltzer” lemonades to iced teas to Gordon Ramsey “Hell’s Seltzer.” In the release, Jay Sean says says he “discovered my love for sake” during an Asian tour. He also claims the rice wine spares him from hangovers, pointing out it has no sulfites, tannins, or gluten.
“I’ve long wished there was a drink that I could enjoy and not feel guilty about,” Jay Sean says in the release, “because let’s be honest, a fun time can result in a sluggish, bloated and non-productive next day.”
Vinoda Basnayake, the principal owner of the company that operates Heist, as well as D.C. drinking spots Casta’s Rum Bar and Morris American Bar, says Jay Sean isn’t scheduled to perform, but he’s “not not” saying the singer won’t eventually make a beeline for the microphone.
“He’s the host of the party,” Basnayake says, “and I can’t think of a time where Jay’s hosted and he hasn’t sung at some point.”
Basnayake chairs the D.C. mayor’s Commission on Nightlife and Culture. Back in the early 2000s, when he was busy throwing parties at Georgetown, he says he was introduced to Jay Sean as “this guy who was blowing up in the U.K., and everyone here was illegally downloading his music.” Basnayake says their friendship blossomed when he booked Jay Sean for his first-ever American performance, at the now-shuttered H2O nightclub in Southwest D.C.
“That show sold out, so we booked a second night, and we realized, maybe this guy is more popular than we thought,” says Basnayake, who continued booking Jay Sean at shows before the artist signed with Cash Money Records.
“We kept in touch throughout the years about all of our projects, and he’s known about the Heist,” Basnayake says. “When I sent him pictures, he said it looked like no other party he had seen in D.C.” continues Basanayke, referencing HEIST’s parties that have attracted the likes of Dave Chapelle and area celebrities.
“When he told me about his sparkling sake drink, I thought, why not debut the drink at the place in America where you first got started?”
All attendees this weekend will be able to sample the beverage, which is only available right now through online ordering.
Following this week’s event, Basanayke says Heist has two more summer series pop-ups left: one on Saturday, August 21, and another the following week, although only the former is advertised on the venue’s website.