A lot of people I talk to are a little bit in the dark about how to drink sake. I will now attempt to light the way for you! Homebrewed sake can be drank warm or chilled, and is great either way.
Drinking chilled sake: Chilled sake is traditionally enjoyed from a 6 oz square cedar (or cypress) cup called a masu. Traditionally, a bit of salt is sprinkled on the rim to symbolize food (sakana). In the Japanese way sake is never consumed without food, so putting salt on your cup is just a way to allow you to drink sake by itself! The cedar masu add its own complementing flavor to the sake, but can overwhelm more delicately flavored ginjo sakes; for which a laquerware alternative is available.
Drinking warm sake: Restaurants use a “sake machine” through which hot sake is dispensed from 18 liter boxes for consumption by their American patrons. Warm sake is good, but these machines heat the sake up to almost boiling and keep it there for far too long as it dispenses. This is far too hot to drink, and actually ruins the sake – changing the flavor and boiling the alcohol out of it. The same thing often happens if you try to warm sake up in the microwave if you aren’t careful, actually. The proper warm temperature to drink sake at is just a little warmer than your own body: 110ºF-120ºF (43ºC-48ºC). To warm it up, put a small pan of water on the stove and bring to a boil. While you’re waiting, pour some sake into the tokkuri (flask) of your favorite sake set, and put a thermometer in it. When the water boils, remove from the stove and put your tokkuri full of sake in the hot water. Wait patiently until the thermometer reads the appropriate temperature, then immediately serve, sipping it from the ochoko (cups) that are part of your set.
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