It’s time to pull out the extra blankets, dust off the heater, and drink warm sake! One of the pleasures of sake is how you can enjoy it with the changing of the seasons. It’s one of the most unique beverages out there because of its ability to be enjoyed from ice cold to piping hot.
To take advantage of sake’s versatility, I’d like to get specific about sake serving temperatures by delving into: 1) the specific levels of warm sake and, 2) how to properly warm sake. With each sake, I will provide temperature suggestions, but I encourage you to find the temperature that suits you by using the attached hand-outs for this month (Sake Serving Temperatures and How to Warm Sake: A Visual Guide).
Hand Out 1:
What actually happens when we warm sake? Sweetness is enhanced because sugars are not constricted. Heating sake up also smooths out bitterness, which may make a sake taste mild and feel silky as it travels down your throat. It can also open up different aromas that may have been less detectable when chilled. Sometimes, warming will release fruity or nutty fragrances, take it all in!
Hand Out 2:As a general rule of thumb, I enjoy gently warming sake to the nuru-kan (warm hot) temperature range. Overheating sake can sometimes make the it too dry and disturb the integrity and balance of the flavors. However, the optimal temperature can only be defined by the tongue of the beholder, so try out a range of temperatures to see what you like best.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Umami Mart,
LEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
Urakasumi Brewery (Miyagi, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 65%, SMV: +2
This refreshing junmai has hints of lime rind and cherry on the nose, and the flavor of lightly cooked rice. This pillowy, fresh brew is great at hitohada-kan (skin hot) because of its delicate nature. If you apply more heat, this sake will taste much drier and you may miss some of the nuanced aromatics. Urakasumi is an easy drinking, low acidity junmai with a tingling ending that will please vegetable lovers. This brew pairs seamlessly with roasted winter vegetables like sweet potatoes, lotus root, and ginko nuts. Bottled in October 2018!
Shirakabegura Tokubetsu Junmai
Takara Brewery (Kyoto, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Gohyakumangoku 60%, SMV: +2
This is a solid nuru-kan (warm hot) go-to for me and Kayoko’s dad. Notice its sturdiness and smoothness with some caramel, nuts, and a hint of cabbage on the nose. At 107°F, this layered, complex sake reveals nutmeg and malt in its fragrance and the texture becomes pleasantly silky and weighty - perfect for the cold winter. Go the whole hog with meat and cheese when pairing this rich sake with food. Try it with sukiyaki, pork chops, or with a blue cheese.
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
Niwa no Uguisu Nuruhada Junmai Ginjo
Yamaguchi Brewery (Fukuoka, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Yamada Nishiki + Yume Ikkon 50%, SMV: +1
The brewer recommends having this brew between hitohada-kan and nuru-kan, specifically at 105°F, or what they refer to as bathtub temperature. This junmai ginjo is quite tart, with notes of grapes and cranberries - especially highlighted when warmed. Wine lovers might appreciate its tart acidity. I encourage you to pair this sake with warming dishes like chicken tsukune nabe, dumplings, and broiled sanma (Pacific Saury). Or dunk this bottle in the tub while you draw and bath and enjoy while soaking! Bottled in October 2018!
Kikusui Hiyaoroshi Junmai Ginjo
Kikusui Brewery (Niigata, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Gohyaku Mangoku 55%, SMV: +2
Hiyaoroshi sakes are aged from the previous fall and released in the following fall or winter, hence, its direct translation: cold ship. Matured for over a year, these bottles are aged in the coolest part of the brewery. This particular hiyaoroshi skipped its second pasteurization, retaining bold flavors like roasted walnuts, honey, and pomegranate. Bottled in August 2018, the brewer recommends drinking this before winter’s end to enjoy the peak of its flavor. Enjoy with winter foods like matsutake, shiitake, or roasted chicken. This sake tastes clean and slightly fruity when at the hana-bie (flower chilled) temperature range, and juicy and smooth when heated to the nuru-kan range.