To Heat or Not to Heat?
The question of weather or not to warm sake is not an easy one to answer. The technology used to produce ginjo and daiginjo is relatively modern, and as the most delicate sakes, they tend to be served chilled.
But going back generations in Japan, many sakes were served at room temperature or slightly warmed. Slightly sweet styles do benefit from warming, as do some of the fuller styles. The urban myth that poor sake should be heated to hide its faults is just that, since the warmth can actually emphasize flaws.
And while the most premium sakes are generally best chilled, it comes down to personal preference. A warmed, rich sake might be nice with a steaming bowl of shabu-shabu.
There are a number of sakes that can add interest and intrigue to a beverage program, whether served with food, in cocktails, straight, chilled or warm. Several producers now add flavor profiles to their labels, noting how sweet, full, aromatic or delicate the sake is.
Use this information to educate guests and as pairing guidelines the same way you would to match wine with food—sweet with sweet, full with full, and dry with dry.
While sake has been catching on in recent years, most Americans don’t know much about it. That means demand is low and value high, so you get what you pay for. And it’s an opportunity for you to introduce your guests to, and educate them on, a unique and delicious beverage.
John Fischer is a professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and a former wine director at several New York restaurants.
Five Sake Cocktail Recipes to Try
PH Suit & Tie
2 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin
½ oz. Nigori sake
½ oz. Manzanilla sherry (or another dry sherry)
2 dashes Orange bitters
1 drop Vanilla extract
Combine ingredients and stir over ice. Strain into a coupe/Martini glass, garnish with a lemon and grapefruit peel.
Justin Lavenue of Half Step Bar in Austin, TX, created this recipe.
(pictured on previous page)
1 oz. Ty-Ku coconut sake
1 oz. Angel’s Envy bourbon
½ oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Roederer Estate sparkling wine
Combine first three ingredients and pour into a Champagne glass. Top with the sparkling wine.
Julia McElroy of Grand Isle in New Orleans created this recipe.
3 parts Gekkeikan nigori sake
2 parts Chai-infused apple cider*
2 parts Gekkeikan plum wine
¾ oz. Simple syrup
Combine all ingredients and shake well over ice. Fine strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a green apple slice.
*For Chai-infused apple cider
Place 4 chai tea bags in a liter of apple cider. Refrigerate for four hours, then remove tea bags.
The mixologists at Gekkeikan created this recipe.
1 ½ oz. Ozeki Karatamba “Dry Wave” Honjozo sake
1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
½ oz. Dry vermouth
Muddle cucumber, then add rest of ingredients plus ice and stir. Strain into chilled Martini glass.
The mixologists at House of Hunan in Fairlawn, OH, created this recipe.
2 oz. Ginjo sake
¼ oz. Maraschino liqueur
¼ oz. Crème Yvette liqueur
¼ oz. Lemon juice
¼ oz. Simple syrup
Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and strain into Martini glass, garnish with a lemon peel.
Kevin Villanueva, bartender at Sazerac in Seattle, created this recipe.
Claire’s Sweet Kiss
2 oz. Hiro Red junmai sake
1 oz. Prosecco
2 oz. Fresh pineapple juice
Combine all ingredients over ice. Strain into a coupe.
The mixology team at Hiro Sake created this recipe.