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Success Q uen ch
FOR SAKÉ’S SAKE
When it comes to saké, many people only know to order it hot or cold. But there’s a whole world
out there to discover about this libation you should be aware of before your next outing.
T E X T BY R O N Y M O
Y ou. Me. Bartenders. We’ve all had a part in ruining saké culture.
When we order the sushi bar’s Futsu or table variety, we’re usually
paying 100% of the F-quality bottle’s cost…for a fraction of its
contents. Saké Bombs send hundreds of years of tradition into the air, only
to come splashing down on the table. For only having 3 ingredients (rice,
water & aspergillus oryzae), saké is incredibly diverse. Keeping an eye out
for just a few keys words can help us make informed decisions and increase
our appreciation of Japanese rice wine.
Junmai, served hot or cold, is saké in its purest form. Similar to the
Reinheitsgebot, or German purity law that regulates brewing practices,
there’s no legal way to add extra alcohol, sweeteners or flavors. The taste
and aroma of these styles tend to be more assertive, and heating up or
cooling down increases its drinkability. Ichishima Shuzo has a silky semi-
sweet texture that goes with just about everything except umami-rich
foods. Tozai Living Jewel is a drier, more acidic selection for savory meats.
Junmai-Ginjo, served at room temperature or chilled, could be paired
with delicate foods, but is best enjoyed on its own. Its nuances are the result
of polishing, or removing the outer layers of rice bran, creating more honest
flavors and retarding the presence of off ones. Like Goldschläger, the elegant
bottles of Bunraku Kinmai swirl with edible gold flakes. Chikurin Karoyaka
is an organic, balanced beverage that goes through a lighter pasteurization
process, giving it a softer mouth-feel.
Sparkling, served cold, is an effervescent rice wine that can be substituted
for club soda in premium cocktails or presented in a flûte like champagne.
Usually half the alcohol of traditional saké, yet higher than most beers,
it could be compared to a dimmer, less acidic cider. Zipang, produced by
industry leader Gekkeikan, is easy to sip and dissipates quickly, making
it sushi’s perfect complement. Poochi Poochi is the grown-up version of a
lemon-lime soda like 7 Up and can make a happy home with either a summer
salad or fresh white cheeses.
Nigori, served chilled or cold, is perfect for extinguishing the heat from
spicy foods or in lieu of dessert wine. The essence of coconut, rice pudding
and vanilla will rest on the palate without being cloyingly sweet. This style
is unfiltered, so a gentle shake mixes the natural sediments and promotes
carbonation. Yuki No Bosha is a gateway nigori with lighter viscosity and
a drier finish than most of its counterparts, thanks to its higher alcohol
content. Hakutsuru Sayuri is a classic representation of the style with
an opaque/snowy appearance, honeydew melon fragrance and a palate-
pleasing marzipan-like flavor.
Like wine, enjoying saké is deeply personal so feel free to experiment.
Just avoid brands that add excessive alcohol, dilute their products with
water or promote strong — and many times artificial — flavorings and you