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Sake: Where To Start?

Lots of sake gets drunk in REMOVED!

Earlier this week, my friend Colleen jumped on Twitter and asked, “What’s the deal with hot sake? Is that an actual thing in Japan or just the way we serve it in America?” I have a feeling this is a very common question for Americans who know nothing about Japanese food besides sushi. They think sake is always served hot and there may be only a few varieties, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s start with the basics. First of all, please do not call sake “SAH-KEY.” Saki is an entirely different word in Japanese, and you will get stares of incomprehension if you don’t pronounce it right. It’s “sah-kay” and sometimes in English we put an accent over the e to help you pronounce it correctly.

Ok, now that you know how to ask for it properly, you’re wondering, “Don’t I just ask for sake and take what they give me?” Depends. If you’re eating sushi at a little place not well-known for being authentic, probably. But if you’re lucky to happen upon a sushi restaurant or even an izakaya that serves a variety, this is where it gets fun!

What is sake?

Many think it’s on par with vodka or a similar clear alcohol, but really, it’s more like beer, and comes in just as many artisanal varieties and from many different regions just like beer in America. Sake is brewed, like beer is, but the main component is rice. If you’re looking for a hard alcohol made from rice, you should try shochu (and I’ll talk about that in the future). Sake is usually clear but can range in color, even taking on a caramel hue. It comes filtered and unfiltered, in big bottles and small, and is available in small handcrafted batches and from big distributors. Sounds familiar, right? And although beer is its own thing with many ingredients (and there are many different Japanese beers that are amazing too!), sake is its Japanese cousin. So, for this blog post and making sake easier to understand, I’ll use American beer comparisons.

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4 thoughts on “Sake: Where To Start?”

  1. Awesome post, thank you! I feel much better informed. Just starting my fall cleanse now and I’ll look forward to picking out some fun sake afterwards.

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