Anytime one walks into a Japanese restaurant, whether it’s an Izakaya, a Yakitori, a Sushi House, etc., the poison of choice is generally Sake. Warm or cold, it’s a good time drink to go along with your exotic meal. We drink it, but other than knowing vaguely that it’s made up of rice, many non-Japanese and maybe, even those who are Japanese don’t know much about it. So I present to you 12 Things You Might Like to Know About Sake!
Yes, it’s all about the rice: Sake is a drink fermented from rice.
Just a Little Buzz: Sake is generally between 15% and 17% alcohol.
Sake in the Making: It takes about a month to brew sake, but that doesn’t include the six-month period that it is aged.
Young and Fun: Sake is not meant to be aged past the six-month period and is meant to be consumed soon after purchase. It’ll last six months to a year if kept in a cold and dark place.
No Hangover Here: Not to encourage excessive drinking of sake, but sake is sulfites-free, light and comparitively free of hangover-causing congeners and if you order premium sake, it’ll be free of additives and preservatives.
It’s All in the Brew: From a production standpoint, there are 5 basic types of sake. Each requires different brewing methods and a different percentage of rice milling. They are as follows:
Even Steven: The taste of quality sake should be balanced. There’s nothing cloying or pushy about the flavors. If it is sugary sweet or harsh to the palate, than pass on it.
Gold is In: Generally, sake is almost generally transparent and this is due to filtering, which can be excessive and sometimes rob the sake of its essence. However, if the color is light amber or gold than there hasn’t been as much filtering, which means that the sake has a more full-bodied flavor. Sake that looks dark brown should be avoided.
Sake it To Me: There are about 1800 sake breweries (called kura in Japanese) in Japan, a number which is sharply decreasing each year. So there are 1700 brands, but most kura make several grades or types of sake, which are significantly different. So there are likely as many as 10,000 different sake among these breweries. In the US, there are presently seven breweries, most of which make more than one product.
Cool is Cool and Hot is Not So Hot: Sake actually tastes best slightly chilled. While, there is no one ideal serving temperature, the flavor nuances of the sake is presented better when it is served cooled to chilled. Good sake can also be warmed up, but beware, sake that is served piping hot generally means that the heat is used to disguise a cheaper quality brand of sake.
Pair Me Up: Like wine, sake is a wonderful accompaniment to fish and other light dishes. Premium sakes can even be matched with strong or curiously flavored snacks taken in small morsels.
A Rice By Any Other Name: Just like different grapes are used to make wine, there are different types of rice used to brew Sake. In fact, there are about 65 varieties of rice designated as sake rice, and naturally some are more prized than others.
There you have it. A little knowledge goes a long way, so the next time you take a sip of sake, hopefully, you’ll remember what you read here and appreciate it that much more.
By Abby C. Abanes
Menuism Community Manager