This February at Umami Mart, it's Love Yuzu month. Although we are grateful for our boos and family during the month of love, here at Umami Mart, it's all about loving certain foods and drinks.
Thanks to my sister's tree in Berkeley that bears tons of fruit every year, February is when I've got yuzu on my mind. It's been all yuzu, all the time for the past few weeks. I've made a yuzu liqueur, yuzu marmalade and brew yuzu ginger tea almost every night. I feel very lucky to have a robust supply of fresh yuzu this time of year.
But for the rest of the year, when there is no fresh yuzu fruit available, I indulge in different foods that preserve the bright, refreshing fruit. Preserving yuzu in sakes and shochus is very common in Japan and a great way to enjoy the fruit all year long.
When I lived in Tokyo, I had a glass of yuzu sake on a big block of ice every Friday night at a tiny spot called Saburo in Hatagaya. That weekly drink is one of my favorite memories of Tokyo. In addition to yuzu sakes, all types of citrus-infused sakes were common in bars (dai dai, mikan, sudachi, etc). I am happy that yuzu sakes have made it stateside – especially great quality ones like the Yuagari Yuzu sake, included in Level 2, that capture the lip puckering tartness of yuzu.
This is the first time I am including citrus-infused sakes for Sake Gumi. For the sake purists, I ask you to open your horizons and try these sakes with me. Although they are very juicy, sweet, and fruity, this a genre that is wildly popular in Japan and can not be ignored. The pairing possibilities are unique with these sakes and reach places that traditional sakes can't go (like pairing with really spicy salsas and tacos).
To avoid overloading you with yuzu, the other bottles in both levels are drier complement the yuzu offerings. It's a privilege for me to offer Level 1 members with one of my all time favorite sakes: Bride of the Fox. And for Level 2, I chose an Otokoyama Nama that is appropriate for the cold winter season (although it's been unusually warm here in Oakland).
Follow us on Instagram @umamimart and on our blog to discover yuzu recipes and tidbits all month long!
YokoLEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
Kizakura Brewery (Kyoto, Japan)
Seimaibuai: N/A, SMV: N/A
This refreshingly light, sparkling sake come from Kizakura Brewery, who has been making sake since 1925. We also carry a few beers (including a yuzu beer, duh!) from Kizakura at Umami Mart. This sake is only 7% ABV, making it a great mid-day refreshment. What I like about this sparkling sake is that it’s surprisingly dry and captures the nuance of the floral and tart fruit. Enjoy this sake cold alongside chips and salsa, or crispy cheese crackers.
Bride of the Fox Junmai Ginjo
Kaetsu Brewery (Niigata, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 50%, SMV: +3
The first thing you need to know about this sake is that it was the first beverage to run out at Kayoko’s wedding. The spectrum of flavors in this sake never gets old: savory cashews mingling with a fruity pear, ending with a refreshingly crisp finish. It’s hard to stop at just one glass. This is not your typical ginjo – it’s earthy, nutty, mushroomy but somehow still light and endlessly drinkable. Try at room temperature and experiment with pairing – it’s suprisingly flexible. Pizza, burgers, pasta and ramen, you name it!
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
Iinuma Honke Brewery (Chiba, Japan)
Seimaibuai: N/A, SMV: N/A
This is the second best thing to having fresh, yuzu fruit. It’s bitter, viscous tart, and floral – all the flavors you’d expect in a fresh yuzu fruit. Yuagari means “after the bath.” So have it chilled on a big block of ice after hot bath or a long day... or make it a Yuzurita or Love Yuzu cocktail on our blog! Kayoko and I always have trouble pairing sake with Mexican food like chicharones and smokey red salsa. With this sake, our troubles are behind us. This yuzu-shu will go down easy on Taco Tuesday.
Otokoyama Tokubetsu Junmai Nama
Otokoyama (Hokkaido, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 55%, SMV: +2
As the label suggest, this is a fun wintertime sake that should be enjoyed chilled, since it’s a nama (unpasteurized sake). There’s a little bit of whipped cream on the nose, in addition to sweet apples. The taste reflects some of the juiciness, but finishes very dry, which is what Otokoyama sakes are known for best. This sake is an excellent complement to salty, umami morsels like chicharones and olives. Although it’s a junmai, the rice is milled down to 55%, uncovering a delicate fruity flavor.