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A Beginners Guide to Sake

October 30, 2019

When you visit Kobe Steakhouse, not only will you be able to indulge in the delicious Japanese food, but you will also be able to try some of our authentic sake choices. For those not familiar with this classic Japanese alcoholic drink, here are a few things to help you understand more about sake before you try it for yourself:

DEFINING SAKE: If you ask for sake in Japan, you will be met with a confused look because the word simply refers to a generic group of alcoholic drinks. However, when not in Japan, ordering sake will get you the traditional alcoholic fermented rice beverage. If you want the classic sake beverage while in Japan, you should ask for a Nihonshu.

TYPES OF SAKE: Because of the varied production processes and ingredients, sake is available in a myriad of varieties. Sake can be classified using several different factors, including the region from which it hails, the brewing process, the type of rice used, and more. One of the most common ways to classify sake is by labeling the polishing process. The polishing refers to how intensely the rice was milled, removing the outer layers of the grain and getting to the heart of the core. The most premium sakes have been polished down the most. Here are a few of the major types of sake to help get you started:

  • JUNMAI: This pure rice, non-additive sake exhibits a full taste with a slightly acidic profile.
  • HONJOZO: Made with water, rice, and koji, this type of sake contains a small amount of added alcohol, helping to smooth out the flavor and provide an easier drinking experience.
  • GINJO AND JUNMAI GINJO: This premium sake delivers a fruity and light flavor due to its specialized yeast ingredients and unique fermentation process.
  • DAIGINJO AND JUNMAI DAIGINJO: As one of the most premium types of sake, this drink requires a specialized brewing process and highly polished rice in its production.

DRINKING SAKE 101: Now that you have some background about the origins and production process of sake, it is time to enjoy the drink. Many beginning sake drinkers wonder what type of glass to use when drinking the beverage. Unlike traditional wine, there is no special glass shape that makes drinking the differing varietals a better experience. Most sake is consumed out of a glass material. Doing so will ensure that the complex flavors and aromas of the drink are not lost within the receptacle materials. Those looking for a more authentic experience can choose to drink their sake out of a traditional ochoko or masu.

Some sakes are better served warm while others need to be chilled to bring out the best flavors. There are no hard and fast rules about this and you will soon discover that drinking temperature is often just a personal preference. If you wish to drink your sake warm, it is important to take care to not heat it too quickly. Experts recommend using a specially designed sake carafe to gradually heat the beverage so that it is evenly warmed and the flavor is not lost. Experimenting for yourself will help you to discern how you best prefer your sake.

The best way to learn more about sake is to simply begin drinking it. Once you get the opportunity to sample some different varietals and experiment drinking it at varying temperatures, your own personal taste preferences will begin to be revealed. Have fun during the learning process and enjoy the beverage for all that it offers. Cheers!

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