Drink sake night — but I don’t know sake!

It’s “drink sake night” tonight, and since I have other plans, I hopped on it last evening. I figured it was the least I could do after suggesting you try a sake last week to help out the brewers hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

It was a fun challenge because I don’t know much about sake. Sure, I wrote a story about sake but that was eons ago and learned about rice polishing and the importance of yeast. But I’ve had little since. So it was a good experience since I got to go to a new corner of Astor wine store and approach shopping as a newbie.

As such, I was attracted to packaging, notably these cute single-serve cups. But were they too gimicky? I had to ask for help. The helpful clerk assured me that they were actually pretty good, even if slightly gimmicky. I felt as though I needed a bottle. But not a whole one since I didn’t think it would be too popular at home. So, any good half bottles? Yes, he steered me to the Shirakawago Sasanigori Saké, Junmai Ginjo Nigori in a distinctive blue bottle. He said it was a good starter one for someone who likes high-acid wines. Sold!

At home, I shook it well and served it cold, as the label suggests. The milky, cloudy sake poured into the glass. As I swirled it, some of the unfiltered goodness was left on the side of the glass. The prevailing aroma to me was alcohol, but getting beyond that is a white flower and slight licorice note. On the palate, it is pretty rich–sort of a steamed rice crossed with Pastis–but also interesting enough to keep me sipping.

This brewery is in the landlocked Gifu prefecture, about 500 miles from Sendai, a place where we are all hopeful that some semblance of normality can return one day soon. Although, since pure water is also a key ingredient for sake, that day may, tragically, be a long way off, making a sip of any sake in New York today especially bittersweet.

If sake aficionados have suggestions for people lifting a glass of sake tonight, feel free to hit the comments.

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10 Responses to “Drink sake night — but I don’t know sake!”

  1. I haven’t given much thought to sake. In my mind sake is tied to hibachi. This is a good time to change that notion in my mind.

  2. I feel horrible for the people of Japan and wish them all the best but I cannot bear to choose Sake over wine. I’ve tried to a few nice bottles but each time I just wished I had grabbed a bottle of wine instead. I hear that there are some very good Japanese Whiskies as an alternative to support the cause.

  3. Dave: I have some recommendations for good sakes that might change your mind on my blog FAQ, which I hope I will not offend Tyler by posting here:


    BTW Tyler, thank you for pitching in!

  4. Good for you Doc!
    W. Blake Gray has a good sake FAQ over at his place…

  5. Straight from the source…WBG got in there before I hit submit!

  6. Thanks Blake. Will take a look. Fan of your site as well.

  7. My pleasure, Blake–many happy returns!

  8. Dave – Yes, that’s my problem exactly–when in wine store, must buy wine (not sake)!

  9. As a lover of sake….am happy to make some suggestions for Friday night sake libations. Enjoy!

    “A feast of sake” on Scribd http://www.scribd.com/doc/51555585 #Readcast

  10. I thought Drink for Japan was an excellent idea and did it last Friday as well…and also chose a nigori sake. I chose Rihaku’s and it was excellent, both alone and when turned into a cocktail.

    PS: A distiller pal recommended Suntory whiskeys for those who just aren’t into sake.


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