6 Things You May Not Know About Sake
Americans know and love sake as Japan’s most famous contribution to the world of alcoholic beverages. We drink it with sushi, we drink it in sake bombs, and as its popularity has exploded around the world in recent years, we’re getting used to finding it in all kinds of restaurants, even at a certain all you can eat buffet!
But there’s still plenty about sake that is confused in public lore, so let’s clear up a few misperceptions, and get to the bottom of the best ways to drink it.
1. It’s a wine alternative, but not a wine
Sake is often referred to as a rice wine, but technically, wines are made from a fruit by definition. Sake, on the other hand, is a cereal grain beverage, like beer. However, the reason sake is viewed as a wine alternative is sake and wine have similar potency. Wine usually has around 12-percent alcohol content, while sake is closer to 14-percent. They both pair well with food, but sake is far less acidic than wine, making for an often mellower dining companion.
2. What is the difference between filtered and unfiltered?
Yes, most sake is clear, but we’ve all seen a cloudy version of sake called nigori, often referred to as unfiltered sake. Officially, nigori has been lightly filtered, but dissolved rice particulates are allowed to remain, contributing a creamier texture and sweeter flavor than clear sake.
3. What is best drinking temperature
If you first came across sake in an Americanized sushi restaurant, you probably had it served hot. That’s because less expensive sake tastes better hot when the taste of rice and alcohol become more prominent, and less desirable flavors are muted. Traditionally, sake is usually served chilled, and more expensive sake in particular is at its best served this way, so that it’s cleaner, more refined flavors may shine through. However, if it’s too cold, some of those flavors won’t open up to your palate. The sweet spot is about 40-degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Common terms for serious sake drinker
Sake terms used to grade for quality have to do with the rice quality. Different regions of Japan grow different types of rice that affect the final product, so sakes will be described according to the region. It’s also important how much the rice is milled — meaning how much of its bran is removed in a mill before it’s made into sake. The bran is what makes brown rice brown, and the degree to which its polished away accounts for different grades applied to sake. The term junmai referred to sake made entirely from rice, a good place to start. If the rice has been polished to less than 50-percent of its bran, it’s called ginjo. To less than 40-percent it’s called daiginjo, considered the highest quality. Premium sakes will thus be called junmai-ginjo, or junmai-daiginjo.
5. Common terms for the not so serious
On the more fun and affordable end of the sake spectrum, you’ll find futsu. A futsu is to sake what a table wine is to wine. That means, hot or cold, it’s the sake you’re most likely to drink with your friends while out eating sushi. It’s also the type of sake you’ll want to drop into beer for a classic sake bomb!
6. It doesn’t just go with sushi
At Yummy Buffet, we offer a fully stocked sushi station guaranteed to pair well with our selection of sake. However, sake may pair well with all kinds of seafood and cuisines, meaning you’ll enjoy your sake or sake bomb just as much with our. tasty array of Chinese dishes, crab legs, and other cooked seafood!