Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Nihonshu No Hi!

Say what? Friday is International Saké Day (aka Nihonshu No Hi), and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by sipping on a glass or two. Saké is often overshadowed by beer, wine or cocktails, but it’s crafted in a range of styles that truly offer something for everyone. In honor of Saké Day, the folks from the upcoming Sake Fest in Portland, Ore., are offering Imbibe readers a special discount on tickets. Today is the last day to secure the general advance ticket prices, but starting tomorrow, you can enter code IMBIBE at the checkout and secure the discounted price of $47.50 (the regular ticket price is $65). This is going be a terrific event, and you seriously won’t want to miss it—amazing sakés from around the world available for tasting along with some of Portland best chefs on hand to prepare incredible food pairings. So be sure to take advantage of the special Imbibe discount by heading here, and we’ll look forward to seeing you there on October 13.

In the meantime, if you want to brush up on your saké knowledge before the big event, here are a few quick tips to get you primed.

Variety is key. Sakés are typically categorized by the amount of rice that has been polished away, but to further complicate things, they can also range from dessert-y sweet to bone dry. Polish is denoted by style (i.e.: junmai, gingo and daiginjo), while sweetness is measured on the Saké Meter Value (or SMV) from +10 to -10, or very dry to very sweet, accordingly. If tasting with friends, try and have at least five different options on hand ranging in polish and sweetness, as well as at least one unfiltered (nigori) bottle.

Keep it glassy. Though traditionally sipped from a small ceramic cup, a stemmed white wine glass provides the ideal saké-drinking vessel since it helps highlight delicate aromas and flavors.

Stay cool. Only saké of low quality should be warm, so keep things cool and serve it just slightly warmer that fridge-temp. This helps enhance subtle nuances that are otherwise obliterated once heated.

Mind your manners. Saké etiquette says you shouldn’t pour your own glass, so be sure to keep your guests’ glasses full and enlist someone to do the same for you!

Mix it up. Saké can lend delicious nuances to cocktails. Let your own palate be your guide and mix with complementary flavors, or try it in drinks like the Kyoto Sour and the Plum Blossom.

Dig in. Saké has lively acidity and fruity characteristics that make it a great match to for variety of flavors, everything from sushi to spare ribs to sweets.

Relax! There’s nothing to be intimidated about when it comes to saké—enjoy it casually just like you do wine, beer or spirits and toast friends with a hearty kampai (it means “empty your cup”).

Get savvy. Check out Zen and the Art of Sake from our January/February 2009 issue and verse your friend on rice polishing, saké styles and koji.