#17 Sake

Sake (along with tea) is the at the centre of traditional Japanese drinks. Simply explained, it is made from rice into a clear liquid. But the simplicity ends there as there can be more taste variations and types for sake than red wine.

Sake (pronounced ‘sah-kay’) can be found in different viscosities – from water-like to syrup-like, filtered different numbers of times, made from different proportions to water and from different fermentation times and processes. Furthermore, you can buy sake either cool, room temperature or hot.

Usually I prefer to order sake warmed which makes it much easier to drink than when it is cold in my opinion. The aroma is stronger, but my friend showed me a technique in which you breathe in before sipping, then breath out after swallowing. That way you don’t get what I like to call ‘the strong alcohol shivers’.

My guess is that the sake from the ‘all-you-can-drink’ places isn’t the best in the world. You can buy some very fine sake from small alcohol shops dotted all over Japan. There are also sake exhibitions held every year in which sake makers show off their very best efforts. Even though I’m probably an alcoholic in denial, I don’t think I’ll have the capacity to sip sake for long enough to be able to still be standing after such an event. You’re really supposed to spit it out when you’re just tasting, but we all know nobody does that 😉

At many Shinto Shrines you can see stacks of beautifully decorated sake barrels on display. Although at first thought it may seem like the monks are not being discreet enough about how much they love sake, the display is actually a part of a ceremony they perform whilst offering sake to the gods.

Recently, I’ve also fallen in love with umeshu which is another Japanese alcoholic drink that is a little weaker percentage-wise, but is much sweeter in taste. In any case, both are such essential parts of Japanese cuisine (many dishes are designed to be accompanied by sake) that they’re definitely a ‘must-try’ on anybody’s to-do list.

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