Sake. You probably only come across it at sushi restaurants, take one glimpse and move on. Shame on you – but we understand. You’ve probably heard all of the stereotypes: sake is kind of sweet, restaurants serve it warm and it’s from Japan. What you haven’t heard is that there’s a lot more to sake than that. Listen up.
We’ll spare you the details but the time spent creating sake is what makes it so good. It’s like a fine wine, aged to perfection and there are many different flavor profiles. Sake can be filtered or unfiltered (nigori) plus aged (koshu) or unaged. It even comes sweet or dry. And unlike most alcohol, sake can be drunk hot or cold. It’s best to match it with the food you’re eating (like the Japanese do) and the season.
There are almost a hundred types of sake but the easiest way to classify is by grade. Sakes are separated into grades according to the amount of added alcohol and quality of rice used to ferment it. Junmai is the boldest of the flavors and has zero alcohol added, pure rice and water. Order it with your next spicy tuna roll, you won’t be disappointed. Ginjo is a bit sweeter with a more delicate flavor due to a small amount of added alcohol. The extra alcohol makes it a bit easier to drink if you’re not used to the taste of sake. The third, daiginjo, is the lowest grade because of the added alcohol and quality of rice used. We blame daiginjo for the sake stereotypes. Broaden your sake horizons and try a few different things.
Sake doesn’t have to stay in your Japanese restaurant. Now that we’ve given you all the facts, go out and buy a bottle. We suggest:
- Hakkaisan Junmai ($35) – a bold junmai with a crisp and refreshing flavor.
- Isojiman Ginjo ($50) – a lighter and sweeter sake with citrus hints.
- Otokoyama ($25) – a dry bold junmai with hints of floral flavors.
Have you tried sake before? Tell us what you think of the Japanese alcohol and suggest any brands that you like below.