Japanese sake, also called the drink of the gods, is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Not only one of the tastiest forms of alcohol, sake also has several health benefits like preventing high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as having anti-ageing properties.
Thanks to its high proportion of alcohol, the most common misconception surrounding sake (pronounced: Saa-kee) is that the drink won’t go well with sushi. The truth is that sake contains about 15 per cent alcohol, and can make for a great accompanying tipple with sushi. An important point when thinking about pairing sake with food is to remember that the drink is much lesser in acidity than wine, but has significantly higher concentrations of the amino acids that render on our palate.
Sake is, indeed, a beautiful backdrop for all kinds of cuisines and styles of cooking. One can try consuming this delightful drink with wasabi nuts too, since they bring out the flavours making it a wonderful combination.
The other common misconception is that it is rice wine. By definition, wine is alcohol that is fermented from the sugars in a fruit. So, technically, if there is no fruit, there is no wine. Sake — in contrast to wine — breaks down rice using a two-step fermentation process, which in essence makes the process of producing the drink actually more closely related to beer than wine. However, the way sake is produced is totally unique in the world of alcoholic beverages. The truth is that sake doesn’t fall into any one category of alcohol.
You may feel overwhelmed by the wide range of varieties available when buying sake for the first time. But remember to consider three things when buying for the first time — fruity aroma, body (full body or light body) and the aftertaste. Based on the preferences, one can choose between Ginjo, which is fruity, light and non-acidic; Junmai, not sweet, but more acidic and earthy; or Daiginjo that is more polished and tastes stronger and more refined.
Traditionally, sake was served warm. This was related to the fact that sake was — until about 30 or 40 years ago — a lot rougher, fuller, sweeter and woodsier than it is now; warming suited it much better back then. However, with the changes in the sake-brewing world in the last few years, much more delicate and fragile varieties have come about, with fruity and flowery essences. To heat such sake would be to destroy precisely the flavours and fragrances the brewer worked so hard to have you enjoy. Most good sake should be enjoyed slightly chilled. However, like wine and any other premium beverage, different sake will be singular at even slightly different temperatures.
Sake has a delicate unadulterated flavour and is best consumed as is. But its distinct flavours and texture combine well with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for delicious cocktails. Its faint flavours mix well with both fruit and vegetable juices and it also acts as a strong base for different types of bar and drink mixes including sour and pina colada mixes. Perfect for those looking for a lighter cocktail, the recipes shared along are a few refreshing blends that ensure sake can really elevate drinks to an entirely different level.
Mihir is the co-founder of Door No. 1 — The Retro Bar