The Joys of Sake

What to know about this rice wine


When I first entered the world of spirits, I found that I spent the majority of my time researching liquor. As spirit lovers, we all know that there are an abundance of spirits out there that we’re accustomed to hearing about and buying, but there are also some that are a little more off the radar. Until recently, one of these spirits for me was sake, or Japanese rice wine.

Over the past few years, sake has gained enough notoriety in the cocktail world to become a category that isn’t a spirit yet isn’t really a wine either, with several new brands coming out of the woodwork. As I indulge in sake drinking more and more, I’ve started to get the feeling that enjoying a nice sake is truly extraordinary, as if I’ve got a secret elixir that nobody else knows about.

Sake is made up primarily of rice, water, yeast, and koji. Premium sakes are broken down into two categories, Junmai and Honjozo. From there, the Junmai category is broken down even further into Ginjo and Daiginjo. All of these different sakes take on different flavor qualities based on the amount of polished sake rice in the liquid. To learn more about the sake-making process, check out this great article on Serious Eats.

The real question is, how does one enjoy a good sake?

From what I’ve learned, there are a few different ways. There’s the sake bomb, which is a shot of sake dropped into a beer and chugged like a car bomb, and there’s the traditional shot of hot sake. I’ve also discovered that some sake is best when served at room temperature as you would serve red wine.

Sake has recently made its way into the cocktail scene, as well. While many sake purists may be staunchly against the idea of mixing such an elegant liquid with the harsh flavors of stronger liquors and mixers, there are instances where a sake cocktail is absolutely perfect. However you choose to enjoy your sake, it’s always going to be a delectable drinking experience.

Below you’ll find tasting notes on some sake brands that I have recently come across. Sake comes in a variety of expressions, so to really expand your taste horizons, I recommend trying them all and seeing which you like best. Also check out the recipe for the Fuji Sunset, a simple and delicious sake cocktail that we know you’ll enjoy. Cheers, and happy sake-ing!

TY KU Soju: Floral on the nose with peaches and pears and some apricots, as well. Light and sweet. Very smooth and creamy mouthfeel, slightly acidic but a fairly timid drink.

TY KU Junmai: Has a very light golden hue to it and is very prominent on the nose. Smells sweet and sugary, almost cotton candy-esque with sweet cream. There are many flavors going on in the mouth here. At first, it’s very light, but then it takes on a really robust creaminess. Slightly acidic but not too overly so, with a lingering sweet flavor that lasts for a minute or so after.

TY KU Junmai Ginjo: Really rich and sweet on the nose with notes of peach and vanilla that are very prominent. Very subtle flavors, but the stone fruits still come out to play. Very creamy mouthfeel and virtually no acidity. Tastes like a vanilla pound cake!

Click here for more sakes to try, plus the Fuji Sunset cocktail recipe.

— Sara Kay, The Spir.it


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