Delicious both hot and cold, sake is a most versatile drink that not only goes with Japanese cuisine but also a fine accompaniment to many Western dishes. Here’s all you need to know to begin your sake education.
How is sake made?
Sake is brewed from rice, meaning the starches in rice are first changed to sugar, then that is fermented. Sake is not a wine, nor is it a spirit.
How strong is sake?
Most sake is about 16 percent alcohol.
How long has sake been around?
A tough thing to pinpoint precisely, but in the form in we enjoy it today, about a thousand years.
How can I choose the right sake for me?
It is all a matter of personal preference. Most super-premium ginjo and daiginjo are fruity and complex, less expensive junmai-shu and honjozo types are simpler and more solid. Taste around to see what appeals to you.
Should sake be aged?
With very few exceptions, no, you should enjoy your sake young, within a couple of months after purchasing it.
Does sake need to be refrigerated?
Not if it has been pasteurized. However, especially for more expensive sake, refrigeration will slow down maturation. (Unpasteurized sake is called nama-zake, and this needs to be kept refrigerated or it could spoil.)
Do I have to drink it immediately after opening it?
Sake, once opened, will begin to oxidize and lose its aromas and flavors. But, unlike wine, you have a bit more time. Most sake is fine for about a week after opening, but don’t forget about it!
What temperature is best for drinking sake?
Most premium sake like ginjo and daiginjo are best slightly chilled. But there are lots of delicious exceptions, and there is plenty of good sake that is wonderful gently warmed. How do you know? Look for recommendations from the brewer on the label, and also trust your own preferences.
What should I use to drink sake?
Wine glasses work very well for aromatic premium sake. Simple tumblers are fine too, especially for more sturdy types. Of course, traditional o-chokko, small cups from which sake has long been sipped in Japan, are attractive and fun as well.