Choosing Sake can be an intimidating task when going to a Japanese/Sushi restaurant while trying to impress clients, friends, or family. This is a quick sake 101 that will help you to navigate through an unknown menu. Great secret, you choose a style and let the server do the rest. (These styles are served chilled, I don’t recommend drinking hot sake unless…well never for me haha)
1. Junmai – this is your beginning level of premium cold sake. Typically more of a mild flavor, not too dry and not too sweet. Great for beginners and won’t break the bank. These work well when going to dinner with friends and not needing to impress anyone, just simply ask the server for a Junmai style that is of good value for the money and they should be able to steer you in the right direction. I’ve rarely had a Junmai be super expensive and not drink smooth.
2. Junmai Ginjo – this style to me is the ultimate style to drink while dining. It’s elevated quality from Junmai and have distinct flavors. Dryness and sweetness do come into play and I personally lean towards the dryer side when choosing one. This is a great style when taking out clients and wanting to impress. When ordering, ask the server to choose a nice Junmai Ginjo on the dryer side and it’s hard to be disappointed. You may cringe when you get the bill because these can get expensive, however, your there to impress right?
3. Junmai Daiginjo – the crème de la crème of sake. Sake is basically polished rice and the closer you get to the center of the kernel of rice the higher the quality of sake. Junmai Daiginjo sake is the center of the rice which means it has not been affected by any elements of the earth. It’s drinking sake purity at its finest. Now I recommend this come after the meal. Drink a Junmai Ginjo during dinner and continue to impress with a Junmai Daiginjo as a night cap. They tend to be a little sweeter, full of flavor, and very expensive. Do not, Do not, let any drop of this sake not find the bottom of a glass and have it go to waste.
Want to impress a little more? This is an Eric tip: ask for a wine glass to drink out of rather than a tiny sake glass. It opens up the sake more letting you taste the fullness of the flavors. The pour is not the same as a pour of wine, roughly a third of a normal wine pour and don’t take shots! Sake is classy and should be sipped not shot! There is a saying in Japan, “every spill of sake is like a spill of blood” which gives you an idea of how serious some are about their SAKE!