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SAKE ESSENTIALS

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The Basics Of Sake

Guide, Sake
Posted on April 23, 2018
by : Jessica Lee

Welcome to the Sake.sg fountain of knowledge. In this section, you can read about the glorious history of sake, learn how sake is made, and shatter any sake misconceptions you may have in the “Need To Know “ and "Need to Forget" sections. Simply put: sake is rice and water that has been fermented into an alcoholic beverage. Although sake drinks far more like wine, sake shares a similar brewing process to that of beer. This ancient libation has its roots in China, but it has become all Japanese. In fact, the word for sake in Japan is Nihonshu or “wine of Japan.” Brewers have been making sake in its current form for roughly 1,000 years, and today there are over 1,400 breweries producing anywhere between 15-25 product offerings each. Think of wine, think of France? Think of beer, think of Germany? Think of tequila think of Mexico? Similarly, sake conjures up images of Japan. As French wines, German beers, and other libations have become commonplace in the American market, the time is here to elevate sakes profile so that the beverage is better accepted, appreciated, and understood. Currently over 800 sakes are registered in the US and more and more brews continue to make their way to our shores. As the sake market expands, consumers will be able to enjoy far more flavorful brews than the ones we have grown accustomed to—including those really harsh all-you-can-eat sushi bar sakes that are usually served warm. While the similarities to wine and beer are many, sake is truly a unique beverage in a niche all its own. As you learn more about sake, you will recognize and taste a variety of flavors such as honeydew melon, strawberries, and white chocolate tones. Then it is important to remember that you are simply drinking rice and water. Therein rests the most amazing aspect about sake: rice and water can taste like so many delicate and expressive flavors. Welcome to the world of sake—we have been waiting for you! sh. Typically, the fermentation is conducted at low temperatures. The rice mash is pressed and filtered, and then allowed to mature for about 9 to 12 months. Ideally the sake should be enjoyed fresh. The koshu is an exception. This type of sake is allowed to mature for longer and is stronger and rougher than the others. If you enjoy a woody flavor to your sake then try the taru sake. It is matured in cedar barrels. You may enjoy infused sake that may have a fruity flavor such as apple or cherry. If you enjoy your glass of bubbly, perhaps you may like to try a cup of sparking sake. This type of sake has an additional level of fermentation. The drink’s Alcohol By Volume (ABV) is not as high as it is for other types of sake. It is light, sweet and quite enjoyable. Buying your sake If you intend to order sake at a restaurant or bar, it is recommended that you read up on the various types of sake. This will ensure that you opt for sake that will suit your palate and preferences. Do remember that the ABV of sake is quite high (16%-20%). While some brewer’s do dilute the alcohol before they bottle it, it is best to read the details offered on the bottle label. Shopping online for sake can be quite easy. Most online stores offer customers an extensive search tool that can help them select a bottle that would please them. Such a search tool may include criteria such as the customer’s choice in wine or beer and the food with which one may wish to pair the drink. Enjoying the drink There are numerous brands and types of sake, and it is a good idea that you taste a few before you make up your mind. The drink is quite potent and should be enjoyed at leisure. As in food, in drink too, the Japanese have rituals that enhance the experience. The sake is poured out of a ceramic flask or torukki into small ceramic cups known as ochoko. The cup has a wide rim that ensures that the drinker enjoys the fragrance of the sake, even before the drink touches his or her lips. It is recommended that you take a small sip and enjoy the flavor and texture of the sake, before you swallow it. Sake is shared amongst friends and family, and hence traditionally you must be served sake and serve it to others. If you wish to request a refill, politely raise your cup a little and point it towards your dinner partner. It is courtesy to keep a note of whether your dinner date would like a refill. There are no hard and fast rules on whether you can enjoy sake with your food. You may choose to drink it with sushi and other Japanese food or also with Western food. For special occasions the drink may be served in cups that look like saucers. Such cups are called sakazuki. Another interesting way of serving and drink sake is in a masu, or a sake box. The wooden box was used to measure rice and sake. The ochoko may be placed in the masu, or alternatively the masu may be positioned in the sakazuki. To denote generosity the drink is poured in a manner that it fills the inner contains and then overflows into the outer one. Such vessels can be bought online. Raise a toast of Kampei and enjoy your sake, and do remember to pronounce the name correctly.