Sake-Enjoying Warmed Sake
Sake is the national alcoholic beverage of Japan, made mainly with rice, koji (malted rice), and water. Alcohol made from rice has a history going back to at least the Nara period (around the 8th century). Sake has categories like “ginjo-shu,” “junmai-shu,” and “honjozo-shu,” that are classified according to differences in brewing methods and rice milling. There are also different temperatures at which the different types taste best. That’s right, sake is a rare world beverage in which you can enjoy flavors that change according to temperature. There are names for temperatures for every 5 degrees Celsius from 5 to 55 degrees. For example, room or average temperature sake is called “hiya,” sake heated to about 37 degrees is called “hitohada-kan,” and sake heated to about 50 degrees is called “atsu-kan.” Generally, as the temperature rises, the texture becomes smoother, body and umami increases, and sharper flavors come to the fore. On the other hand, chilling sake increases clarity and gives it a refreshing flavor. Depending on the sake, chilling may also increase bitterness.
Ginjo-shu is said to go well at room temperature, junmai-shu from room temperature to nuru-kan, and honjozo-shu at room temperature or jo-kan. Sake is a drink you can enjoy at many different temperatures. One way to find a flavor you enjoy is to ask restaurant staff to recommend a serving style and temperature.