Sake is quickly gaining popularity across the world and particularly in the UK. However, it seems that most of the drinkers out there are still a bit confused about what sake really is. So to help you out, we thought we'd debunk together 5 of the greatest myths about sake. Let's do it!
MYTH #01: Sake is highly alcoholic / is a spirit.
Probably the biggest misconception out there, it is often thought that sake is a spirit and high in alcohol. It probably comes from the fact that for us westerners, when we see a colourless liquid in a small cup, we assume it is a shot and thus a spirit.
Sake is only slightly more alcoholic than wine with an average alcohol concentration of 15-16%. It is pretty much right in between wine and port.
Sake is not a spirit, distilled beverage, but a brewed one. The production process is actually a lot closer to that of beer than of wine even. Sake is often called rice wine, but really, it would be less incorrect in my opinion to call it a rice beer. We'll touch upon the production of sake in another post, but the one thing you should get is that most sakes are between 14 and 17% alcohol.
MYTH #02: Sake should be drunk in a small cup as a shot.
Traditionally, in Japan, sake has been drunk in small ceramic cups called "ochoko". However, things are changing. As more polished and aromatic sakes are entering the market, people are switching to wine glasses. The latter allows the drinker to enjoy the aromas fully. At the end of the day, however, you are the one deciding which glassware you prefer.
If you are in for a Japanese theme night and want to create a traditional Japanese atmosphere, "ochoko" will undoubtedly be your best friends. They will also impress your guest, SUGOI! One remark, though, it is not because it is in a small cup that it should be drunk like a shot. Sake is for sipping!
MYTH #03: Sake gives you some mind-crushing hangovers.
If you thought that sake was supposed to be drunk as a shot, and did drink it as one throughout the night, well then we do not want to be you the next morning (been there done that). Can you imagine taking numerous shots of red or white wine an entire evening?! Sake is, in fact, a very natural product. In junmai sakes, the only ingredients are rice, water, koji, and yeast.
There are no sulphites or other added chemicals, which makes it easily processed by our bodies. The most premium the sake, especially junmais, the less painful will the headache be. Just like with any other alcohol, however, there are no silver bullets, drink moderately, and you'll be forever hangover free.
MYTH #04: Sake should be drunk warm.
This one isn't really a misconception. Plenty of sakes, such as junmais, or aged sake, are wonderful when drunk warm, especially in winter! But it is worth noting that sake can also and is increasingly enjoyed chilled. Ginjos and dainginjos are incredibly delicious when drunk chilled in a wine glass.
As a matter of fact, we would highly recommend that you try starting drinking a sake chilled and then continue to enjoy it as it warms up to room temperature. It is an exciting experience. You will be able to explore the fantastic versatility of the drink as it changes temperature. Essentially, one bottle of sake contains many different ones. Now that is getting your money's worth! However, do not worry if you don't know what temperature is best for a specific sake. Make sure to check the temperature icons on our website to know if a particular sake is best consumed chilled or warm. The key takeaway here is that sake can be drunk both hot and cold.
MYTH #05: Sake only pairs well with Japanese food.
It makes sense that you probably only had sake at Japanese restaurants. While it pairs very well with Japanese cuisine, sake also pairs very well with food from all over the world. One of the unique attributes of the drink is that it is full of umami.
For those who do not know what umami is, it is the 5th basic taste or savoury taste (we'll cover umami in greater depth in another post don't you worry). Because of that umami component, sake matches beautifully with dishes such as seafood salads, olives, caviar, but also pizzas and burgers! Of course, different types of sake comes to different types of pairing. Once again, if you feel lost, our tasting notes come with food pairing suggestions to make your life easier.
This is it for now! We'll cover some more myths in another post. We sincerely hope this article helped you brush off some misconceptions you might have had and clarify and a few points about the beautiful drink that is sake.
Thank you for reading until the end and until then, kanpai!