So you’ve learned all the history of ramen — you know the traditions of Japanese noodles and the regions they come from. Now you want to learn about the good stuff. You need to know how to enjoy the perfect sake experience.
Well, you came to the right place.
Just like noodles, there are different kinds of sake that are used for different celebrations. There’s hot sake, cold sake (we only have the cold, refreshing kind), sake with a high alcohol content, and the more mild stuff. Really, no matter what you’re celebrating, there is a sake for it.
Let’s start with what sake is.
Most people refer to sake as “rice wine” because of the way it is consumed, but it is actually created using a fermentation process much like beer. It is a clear, low-proof drink made from rice, water, yeast and koji — a sweet, fragrant mold used to aid the fermentation process).
As it’s gotten more popular, sake has made its way into several popular cocktails, like mojitos or martinis, but the most common way to enjoy it is straight. During colder months, people will request hot sake and choose chilled sake during the hot summer, but it’s really up to what your preferences are.
Traditionally, sake was served exclusively during light appetizers or big celebrations like weddings, but it’s more and more common to see it served during dinner, paired with specific dishes.
At Noodle Bar, sake is brought to the table in a traditional tokkuri, which is a larger bottle along with two smaller cups called choko or ochoko. We encourage our guests to follow the sake tradition of pouring for others and never for yourself. It’s a sign of respect but also community and we think it adds to the fun.
But what about choosing the perfect sake bottle?
There are a few ways to decide what you want. You could try them all and decide which taste you like best! This is our favorite one, but may not be realistic for everyone.
There are 3 main grades of sake which indicate different qualities.
First you have futsu-shu. This is the very basic sake and has the quality of a table wine. This one is typically served hot because the heat will mask the impurities. If you’re just looking for a quick bottle, this is the kind for you.
Next you have honjozo. This sake is only produced in Japan and includes a small amount of the brewer’s alcohol to bring out its flavors. This is a mid-grade sake that most people enjoy for the uniqueness of each brewer.
Finally there is junmai. It is the purest form of sake and the highest quality.
You can also categorize sake by the styles. Genshu sake is full strength sake that isn’t diluted in any way and usually has a higher alcohol by volume content. Koshu sake has been aged in some way. Nama sake is unpasteurized and must be refrigerated to maintain its quality. And nigori sake tends to have a more cloudy appearance than the others because it is filtered less.
Of course, none of this is as important as the taste and the people you’re sharing the sake with. So come in and try as many bottles as you can.