Sake and Sushi Pairings

The best sakes for your sushi rolls
How to Understand a Sake Menu

Timothy Sullivan of Urban Sake helps to decipher the different kinds of sake


When it comes to pairings made in heaven, we can’t think of a match that’s better than sake and sushi. After all, they both grow out of ancient Japanese culinary traditions. In fact, besides tea, sake is the only beverage some purists will pair with their sushi.

Most sushi novices know that junmai daiginjo sakes, with their clean and crisp flavors, are perfect with a pristine piece of ahi tuna sushi. The rice that goes into these sakes — like the CHOKAISAN Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Japan) $55 (750 milliliters) — is highly polished, so the core that’s left behind makes a very smooth fermented drink.

But there are other styles that pair well with everything on the sushi menu, from tempura and eel to dynamite and seared Kobe beef. Try out these new pairings:

Sake: DEWAZAKURA Tobiroku "Festival of the Stars" Sparkling Sake (Japan) $14 (300 milliliters)

Flavors: This dry sparkler has crisp flavors of earth, minerals, and a hint of citrus. Pair with: A shrimp tempura roll is perfect with the crisp bubbles, so is a soft-shell crab spider roll.

Sake: RIHAKU Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori "Dreamy Clouds" Sake (Japan) $35 (750 milliliters)

Flavors: Expect mouthwatering acidity along with a flavor like ripe plums in this fruity, creamy, and slightly sweet sake. Pair with: We like the idea of this sake with a scallop dynamite roll.

Sake: TENRYO Junmai Daignjo Koshu Aged Sake (Japan) $36 (720 milliliters)

Flavors: Three years of bottle aging gives this dry sake a deep, rich flavor that’s reminiscent of caramel and nuts. Pair with: This sake could work with eel or even the flavors in seared Kobe beef roll.

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