Modern Male’s Guide to Sake 102: Varietals

Golf clap: you’ve somehow duped a ten from Bumble to join you for sushi
Since you’re batting way our of your league, you immediately try to score some points by creating the illusion that you’re somewhat cultured as you order whatever bottle of sake has the coolest sounding name. The situation is in desperate need of some social lubricant as she’s telling you about the sixth time she went to Coachella, so you quickly pour yourself a full cup and knock it back like a shot of Fireball during tailgate season. You simpleton. 

Spoiler alert, you blew it
Not only have you blown any chance you had of being a gentleman, but you also broke the main tenant of o-shaku. O-shaku, is the most basic etiquette rule for serving sake, and under o-shaku the most polite way to pour sake is to pour for others and never directly for yourself. Plus you wasted what could have been a great cup of sake. The only thing that should ever be taken as a shot is a spirit weighing in with an alcohol content between 14%-18%. Sake does not meet that requirement, so stop being an asshole and shooting alcohol you should sip. You wouldn’t take a shot of merlot would you?

Despite your previous experiences getting white girl wasted and yelling “SAKE SAKE SAKE, BOMB BOMB BOMB”, sake should actually be enjoyed like a fine wine. It should bring people together socially, be paired with foods and even paired to the season. The seemingly cheap and dinky little cups that sake is shared in are meant to promote social interaction and generosity, a few characteristics you could definitely improve upon.  

Knowledge is key to not looking like a dickhead #themoreyouknow
Now that we know a little bit about the basics of sake we can talk varietals. fancy way of saying, different types This is the part where you get to actually be an adult and show your date that she’s not out to dinner with another ex-fratboy with a fuckboy haircut (even if you are an ex-fratboy with a fuckboy haircut). Look at you go.

When picking a sake varietal keep a few things in mind such as what food you will be pairing with it and what your or your guest tastes are. While there are many sub categories and technical designations for sake varietals, we’re giving you the basics, which should be good enough to dupe people into thinking you know what you’re talking about. Remember, this is only 102, we’ll go into greater detail in later articles and give you advice on specific brewers and varietals. 

Sake varietals and you, a modern man’s guide:

Courtesy of Sam Uida, Afuri USA.

Honjozo: This is your missionary position with the lights off. Honjozo should be your go to move when you’re in the restaurant and forget everything we just taught you. It’s a type of sake where brewers alcoholthe type of booze you find in beer, not wine is added. While many large production sake brewers produce honjozos for quantity it isn’t always an indication of quality, there are many easy to drink Honjozo sakes.
What you need to know: These sakes are generally less complex and are perfect for drinking during a long meal. Can be served warm or cold, and should be your go-to if you don’t know what to get.

Junmai:  Not to be confused with the board game, this is a pure rice sake with no additives. Junmai sakes tend to have a high level of acidity and are bold in flavor. Perfect for pinot gris drinkers or citrus forward imbibers.
What you need to know: Junmais pair well with fatty foods, like ramen. Serve cold

Ginjo: At least 40% of the rice kernel has been polished off. This sake can have added brewers alcohol. Ginjo sakes are, complex, fruity and floral. These sakes can also run on the pricier side. Junmai ginjo simply means Ginjo with no added brewers alcohol.
What you need to know: Pair with sashimi or grilled white fish to look like you know what you’re talking about. Serve cold.

Daiginjo: If rapper rapped about sake, this is the shit they would talk about. Daiginio is super premium Sake. At least 50% of the outside of the rice kernel has been polished off removing the maximum amount of impurities. These sakes, are the most complex as well as the most expensive. Junmai Daiginjo again just refers to the pure rice with no added brewers alcohol. These sakes are made by true masters and should be quite impressive.
What you need to know: If you’re a big dick swinger, pair with lighter foods and delicate fish. Serve cold.

Negori: Are rough filtered sakes, generally on the sweeter side with a lot of body. These sakes are cloudy, and maintain a lot of the characteristic rice flavor.
What you need to know: These are perfect for a desert sake or for drinkers with a sweet tooth. 

Nama-zake: Usually a spring varietal, this sake is unpasteurized, well technically, only pasteurized once. Flavors tend to be fresh, bold, with hints of rice.
What you need to know: If you like bourbon, IPAs or red wine, give this a try. 

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