My introduction to sake followed a typical white USian narrative: i went with a friend to a relatively nondescript storefront Japanese restaurant in a (West Coast) college town. I discovered miso, teriyaki, tempura, sushi, and sake all in one night. The sake, of course, was served hot.
My introduction to sake served cold came at a sushi restaurant in Victoria, B.C., Canada. It was about 5 years later, and by that time i think i’d become aware that sake could be served either hot or cold, but i’d never actually had cold sake. The server brought us cups of chilled sake with a tiny stick of cucumber added. Intriguing! He said that’s how sake was traditionally served where he came from in Japan.
Still, i didn’t really start getting to know sake more intimately until the summer of 2008. A very nice sushi restaurant opened in our neighborhood. Their sake menu was both tantalizing and baffling. I decided to play it both adventuresome and safe — i ordered something called “bubbling sake.” I figured it would be a little like champagne, and i like champagne….
Oh my goodness. I don’t know precisely what i was expecting (bubbly?), but i don’t think i was expecting something so deliciously sweet and fun. That is when i fell completely in love with sake. Anything that could go from hot to cold to bubbly and still be interesting was a drink i wanted to get to know better.
At the time there was still a wonderful little sake lounge on The Ave, so i started slowly working my way thru’ their (less expensive than the very nice sushi restaurant’s) sake list. I started to get a rough idea of what ginjo and junmai and nigori all meant.
A rough idea, mind, because, honestly? I’m no sake expert. I just really enjoy drinking it and will try most anything. I never got the hang of beer or wine or cocktails, so it’s kind of a relief to find that i enjoy some kind of alcohol. Now Andy can enjoy his gin and tonic while i sip some sake.
Over the past year or so a couple of friends have asked me for a primer on sake, but i’ve always felt too shy about it. Because i’m still not an expert. I’ll still drink most any sake you put in front of me. But then someone asked for some information about sake to use in some fiction, and as i found myself typing more and more paragraphs i figured i might as well just post it all here for everyone who’s been asking.
And i realized i do have several posts i could write already. I have 2 sake books i’ve been meaning to add to my reading list anyway. I can write about the 3 meals with sake pairings that i’ve been to in the past year. I can write up some of the more interesting sakes from my sake list. I can finally kick out of the drafts folder that post i started a year ago about my favorite pink bottles.
I think i’ll start with a quick overview and then move onto the pink bottles and then maybe review 1 of the sake books. Maybe. We’ll see.
Let’s go drinking together!