What Is Japanese Sake?
Sake is a popular rice wine that has been served in Japan since the third century AD. With a wide variety of styles and flavors, it’s no wonder the drink has garnered so much fame. There are four basic types of Japanese sake: junmai-shu, ginjo-shu, honjozo-shu, and daiginjo-shu. Each has a slightly different flavor profile and serving style, as well as different price tags. For example, daiginjo-shu would likely be served on a special occasion, while ginjo-shu is best served cold.
How Is Sake Made?
If you’re interested in the process of making sake, you may be surprised to discover that it more closely resembles brewing beer than making wine. This is because rice and barley are both starches that need to be converted to sugars before fermentation can occur. One of the key steps lies in how the rice is polished: the rice is milled to a certain consistency (thicker for lower-shelf sake and more refined for quality rice wine). Another interesting factor is the addition of koji, a type of mold that is applied to the milled rice after washing, soaking and steaming to convert the starch to fermentable sugar.
How to Drink Sake
There are many ways to enjoy Japanese sake. Most sake is perfectly delicious when served at room temperature. However, depending on the meal, style and season, you may want to try it hot or cold.
Drinking Sake Hot
The cooler months of fall and winter are perfect for trying warmed Japanese sake. When you heat sake, you are able to bring out its most delicate flavors. Better yet? The sensation will warm you from head to toe! When heating sake, be sure not to scald it, which would destroy the taste profile. The best approach is to heat a decanter of sake by covering it with plastic wrap and placing it in a pot of boiling water for 3-5 minute intervals.
Drinking Sake Cold
Japanese sake is also a delicious and refreshing drink in the warmer months. Styles such as ginjo and daiginjo are especially tasty when chilled. Cooled sake can be useful alongside spicier meals, since the cooling sensation will help combat the heat of the dish. To cool sake, simply store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Do not serve it over ice, however, because ice will water down the drink and may add strange flavors.
If you’re interested in trying locally made sake, why not head to one of America’s many sake breweries? This way you can try some rice wine crafted in the U.S. and see how it compares.
Sake Can Combat Common Colds?!
Did you know that you can use Japanese sake to ease the symptoms of the common cold? Tamagozake, or “egg sake,” has been shown to reduce the unpleasant feelings of an oncoming illness. This is because the sake may help you rest, and the egg will be great for your immune system. To make tamagozake, crack an egg into a small bowl and mix it with a couple tablespoons of sugar, to taste. Heat Japanese sake over low heat until it is steaming, and then mix a bit into the egg to avoid cooking it. Add the rest of the heated sake and mix it until frothy; then drink and feel better!
Sake and Mixers
Some people may find the taste of Japanese sake too bitter for their liking. However, there are many creative ways to use sake that make it more palatable. Here are a few ideas for sake cocktails you can make at home.
This is a simple recipe chock full of healthy and delicious fruit. Simply chop up strawberries, lemon, grapefruit, orange and peaches, and add them to sake with a bit of honey. Serve over ice for a refreshing summertime concoction.
Tropical Sake Drink
Looking for something that reminds you of a summer beach vacation? Try making tropical sake. Just mix Japanese sake with pineapple juice and a bit of frozen pineapple for a tasty, tropical delight. If pineapple isn’t your thing, you can substitute the fruit for another of your liking.
Strawberry Milk Sake
This one is perfect for those of you with a sweet tooth. Like a strawberry milkshake with a Japanese kick, strawberry milk sake is an easy cocktail you can make with just a few simple ingredients. Mix sake with milk and a couple tablespoons of strawberry preserves, and you have yourself a sweet and creamy drink you can enjoy any time of day.
If you don’t trust your own mixology skills, you can even buy pre-made sake cocktails online! This way you can enjoy a mixed sake drink without worrying about the recipe proportions.