What is Sake?:
Sakes are categorized based on grade, style and amount of polishing the rice receives and these are important factors when picking out a good bottle of sake. A label may have each of these three elements on it to indicate the sake's quality (i.e. Junmai Ginjo Genshu).
More about sake from Shizoku Mishima, About.com Guide to Japan Travel
Basic Grades of Sake:
- Junmai - No additional alcohol is added to this sake and this is the purest grade of sake. If a label doesn't say "junmai" then some additive has been used.
- Honjozo - This sake includes a small amount of brewer's alcohol to bring out its flavors and is only produced in Japan.
- Futsu-shu - This is a very basic sake without any regulations and is considered to be the quality of a table wine. Because heat masks impurities in sake, this one is typically served hot.
Styles of Sake:
- Genshu - Full strength sakes that are undiluted and typically bottled at 18-20%.
- Koshu - Sake that has been aged.
- Nama - A sake that is unpasteurized and needs to be refrigerated.
- Nigori - This sake tends to have a cloudy appearance because of a lack of filtering that others go through.
- Dainginjo - Ultra-premium sakes polished 35-49%.
- Ginjo - This rice is polished 50-60% making it a premium sake.
- Tokubetsu Junmai - Junmai from rice polished at least 65%.
- Junmai - Traditionally a rice that has been polished 70%, but now all the producer has to do is indicate the percentage on the bottle.
How to Store Sake:
- Most sake labels will have a bottling date on them and it is best to drink them as close to this date as possible.
- Nama sake should be refrigerated because it is not pasteurized.
- Unopened bottles should be kept in the refrigerator and can stay there for up to 16 months, though if you intend on opening it within a week a wine chiller will suffice.
- Opened bottles of sake should be capped and refrigerated and will lat around 2 weeks.
How to Drink Sake:
More and more often sake is finding its way into cocktails. Here are a few...
- Cherry Blossom Tini
- Far East Caipirinha
- Japanese Cherry Blossom Margarita
- Kyoto Sour
- Lotus Blossom
- Manhattan Love Story
- Rocky Mountain Ginger Crisp
- Sake Sunrise
- Samurai Rock
- Winter's First Frost
- Zen Milk Bath
Then there are sake-based drinks...