Japan is on a mission to raise the awareness of sake overseas. Despite a 2,000-year history, the national alcoholic beverage has been losing popularity in Japan, where beer, wine, or cocktails win out as the beverages of choice.
And although not as well known in the West as wine or beer, sake has been gaining followers outside of Japan, according to Reuters.
Sake aficionados are quick to point out that sake is not “rice wine,” but rather a distinct fermented beverage, with a brewing process refined over the centuries.
Unlike beer brewing, which uses malt, or wine, where yeast is added to grape juice, brewing sake makes use of koji to convert the starch in rice into sugar, according to the The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. Koji is a type of fungus also used in producing miso and soy sauce.
The final product, undiluted, comes out with a range of 17 to 20 percent alcohol content, before being diluted down to about 15 percent alcohol.
According to the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, sake falls into four categories: flavorful, light and smooth, rich, and aged. It can be served chilled or warm, ranging from 41 to 131 F. In cocktails, it makes for a lighter option than the usual hard liquors.
On Feb. 12, the Japan Extertanal Trade Association and The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association hosted a walk-around tasting at the Astor Center to show off the versatility of sake.
The event featured a cocktail menu featuring creations from award-winning mixologist Shingo Gokan, from Angel’s Share and SaKaMai, as well as a menu prepared by Executive Chef Isao Yamada from David Bouley’s restaurant Brushstroke.
The Bouley menu featured cooked bamboo shoot and watercress dressed with Saikyo white miso, white sesame oil, yuzu, and mustard; half-dried washu beef jerky seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sake, garlic, onion chips; and guinea hen in saikyo-nigori soup.
Sake Cocktails From Shingo Gokan
—Bartender at Angel’s Share
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
2 oz Junmai Sake
0.5 oz Sherry
0.5 oz Bulleit Rye Whiskey
1 dash Mole bitters
Glass: Brandy snifter
Speak Low 2
2 oz Junmai Sake
0.1 oz Matcha (fine powder green tea)
0.25 oz Kuromits (Japanese black sugar syrup)
Kinako (soy bean powder) rim
Glass: Small rock glass (tumbler)
1.2 oz Yuzu Sake
0.5 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1 oz Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
0.7 oz Bombay Sapphire
Glass: Martini glass or champagne flute