When I go out for Japanese food, it’s one of those bevvies that I think about trying but then I see a cocktail float by in a funky ceramic mug and I change my mind. I promised myself that Friday night would be different. Friday night, I would try Sake. With HubbyDoug as my DD ~ Sake contains between 15-17% alcohol so he’d better be ~ I was curious to see what it was like and whether it’d be something I’d choose more often.
I knew nothing about it and didn’t know whether it had similar ‘rules’ to wine: White with chicken or fish, red with meats. I didn’t know if there was even such a thing as ‘red’ or ‘white’ Sake (there isn’t).
I looked at the variety of premium Sake on the menu and chose one at random: Gekkeikan, which was highly regarded. When I asked the bartender if I could take a photo of the bottle it came from, he replied that I couldn’t because it came from a big box. That didn’t sound good. He served it up piping hot, warning me not to touch the ceramic carafe for quite a while. My research had told me that premium Sake is best served gently warmed. Strike two. When it seemed to have cooled, I took a sip. It was a juxtaposition of thin and strong and made me think of hot nail polish remover. There was no discernible bouquet, just an essence of straight up alcool. Maybe it was an acquired taste but I just wasn’t feeling it. And yet, I didn’t want to give up so easily so I kept a bit to have with my Teriyaki chicken dinner. Maybe the savoury of the soy and delicacy of the chicken would help ease that boozy vibe. It didn’t. And I ended up ordering a cocktail in the funky ceramic mug.
But I refused to be swayed by this experience. With the number of different types of Sake out there, I didn’t feel right about just giving up after one shot. A brand I’d read good things about was Sayuri; a coarse, filtered offering. On the label it said to just shake well ~ no need to warm. The consistency was described as creamy and naturally sweet. This one had a floral bouquet, which was quite nice. It wasn’t nearly as harsh as the Gekkeikan. But I was still not convinced. I suppose you could enjoy sipping it on its own or pair it with a soy-savoury dinner. But what the hell, just pound it into some beer and yell, “KAMPAI!”
Contrary to popular belief, Sake is not really a wine. It’s not really a liquor, since it isn’t distilled like vodka or gin. According to John Gautner of Sake-World.com, it’s a fermented rice alcohol beverage and with rice being a grain, it’s actually more like beer.
Here are some more fun facts about Sake:
- It’s brewed for about four weeks and then a six-month aging process.
- It is similar to Beaujolais in that it’s best consumed immediately or within six months of release.
- It does well stored in a cool, dry place but is best with refrigeration.
- It doesn’t contain sulfites (so no sulfite issues common with wine). Premium Sake is free from additives/preservatives and has few congeners (a contributor to that pesky hangover).
- While cool brings out the best, it benefits from gentle warming.
- It pairs very well with lighter fare such as chicken or fish.
- Price range: between $18-35, $35-70 for 1.8 litres. The brands I found at World Market began at $13.99.
- Snake in the bottle? Also known as Habushu ~ is generally not available in the US because there’s a freaking SNAKE IN THE BOTTLE! Enough said.
- Some other top Sake brands: Juyondai ~ fruity and fragrant
Isojiman ~ balanced and rich
Kubota ~ light and dry
I gave Sake a good, college try and the second choice was much better than I expected. Eventually, I might try a few more. But I think I’ll be staying away from anything that has a snake in the bottle.