Brewed like beer, yet with a consistency somewhere between wine and spirits, Sake can be used in an astonishingly varied way. In fact, Sake has a broader taste-palette than wine – aromas that are derived from the interaction between rice, water, yeast and that special mold aspergillus oryzae (‘koji’), all orchestrated by the skilled tori (brewmaster) in a highly complex fermentation process.
The resulting drink (and here we are really ONLY talking about Premium Sake…) has typical mildness, is light, multi layered and complex. Such a delicate drink should be enjoyed chilled (with very(!) few exceptions) like a good white wine. If you heat up Premium Sake, the delicate aromas will simply evaporate and you will be left with an alcoholic rice taste – Therefore, always enjoy good Sake chilled.
The right glass is also important for enjoying Premium Sake. Traditionally, Sake is often served in small pottery or glass jars – well, the main reason for that seems to be the extreme politeness of the Japanese (the logic goes like this: it is polite to pour for each other; the smaller the glass, the faster it is empty and more chances you get to be polite…). Of course you can sip your Sake from a small vessel – but for experiencing the full flavor a better choice would be a nice big white wine glass!
This is what you can do with Sake:
Just like that: nicely chilled in a large wine glass as aperitif, digestif, in front of the fireplace, by the pool…
It is extremely easy to pair Sake with a large variety of food. As with pairing wine, the art is to find the right balance between the characteristics of the food on one hand, and the acidity and alcohol level on the other. This process is quite complex in the case of wine due to a relatively large concentration of tartaric acid, malic acid, citric acid and acetic acid.
Sake, by contrast, has no tartaric acid, only around ⅛ of acetic acid, and altogether only ⅕ of the total acid content of wine; furthermore, Sake contains no sulfates and hardly any tannins.
Together with a slightly higher alcohol content of roughly 16% Vol., this lower acid content makes for a much easier ‘pairing’ than with wine. In other words, Sake fits with almost all dishes… just don’t challenge it with extra heavy sauces.
Another special feature of Sake is a high concentration of succinic & glutamic acid, which are responsible for the fifth basic taste “Umami (meaning ‘pleasant savory taste’ or ‘delicious’…). Since fish is relatively high in Umami as well, this explains why Sake is the perfect company for practically all fish dishes (not just Sushi…).
As a Cocktail
soft, complex, nuanced, and around 16% Vol. Alc.; Sake is an excellent basis for creating innovative Cocktails! The key for a good Cocktail is simple – it should taste great! A few hints to mix with Sake:
—look for commonalities or contrasts
—don’t overpower the smooth Sake with alcohols that are too dominant in taste, such as Bourbon; rather pick as company lighter flavors such as Vodka or Gin, which help bring out the special flavors of the Sake
—great additions include cucumber, ginger, lime
—Lots of great recipes to get you started are here.