The Sake Facts and Sake Tips
Japanese rice wine or sake is made by fermenting rice, where the starches are converted into sugar, and then alcohol during the brewing process. Alcohol content of sake generally ranges from 14% to 16%, though there are exceptions.
Served hot or chilled, sake comes in different varieties. There’s the sweet, low-alcohol Amasake, the locally micro-brewed Jisake, the Kuroshu from brown rice, the clear color, unfiltered Muroka, the unpasteurized Namazake requiring refrigeration, the undiluted Genshu with the highest alcohol content of up to 20%, the cloudy and unfiltered Nigori Sake, acidic and undermatured Shiboritate, and the aged and woody Taruzake.
Sake is not only for drinking, but cooking as well. However, the sake used for cooking is polished less so that it has a bolder, rice flavor, and also has a lower alcohol content. A good quality cooking sake adds flavor to food.
When do you drink sake?
It is often enjoyed during appetizers or tapas style dining, not often as part of a large meal. It is sipped with sashimi. Weddings and other formal occasions are celebrated with it. Sometimes, Japanese sake is mixed with modern drinks, as an ingredient in mixed cocktails. Sake may be served either hot, cold, or at room temperature. Hot is preferred during cooler weather, chilled during hot times. Usually, high quality sake is served at room temperature. Japanese sake is typically sold in large bottles, but it is poured into smaller vessels or ceramic flasks, known as “tokkuri”.
There is a proper way of pouring sake. Firstly, always pour sake for others, not for yourself, even if you did the pouring for everyone else. Let somebody pour yours. When pouring for others, make sure to place two hands on the flask, regardless how small. It is a show of respect. If someone is pouring for you, cradle the small cup in the palm of one hand, resting your freehand fingers on the side of the cup,which is slightly leaning towards the pourer. If you’re drinking sake in a work or business related function, be mindful of seniority and status when pouring sake.
Then be sure everyone is served their drinks before you raise your cup for a toast. The traditional Japanese term for “cheers” is “kanpai!” Ochako sake cups are raised and gently touched together.
Enjoying Sake in Seattle
Knowing more about sake – the process, varieties, temperatures, the vessels used, and when and how it is shared – will make you more responsive to this iconic drink. Over at I Love Sushi on Lake Union, your sushi restaurant in Seattle, we’d love to further your interest in sake while you enjoy our sushi.