For newcomers, the world of sake can be an intimidating one. It’s common for someone to get their first taste of sake at dinner with friends or co-workers, and feel like they want to enjoy sake at home. But then the questions come—what sake should I drink? Where can I find it? What dishes does it pair well with? With so many choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Luckily, there’s nothing to fear! While it’s true that sake offers a deep and vast world to explore, it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. If you’re looking to buy some sake for your home refrigerator, the first thing you’ll want to do is seek out a local liquor store with a good sake collection. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to help you find a sake that suits your palate—in some cases, you may even be able to sample their recommendations right in the store!
Nowadays, you can also find plenty of online sake specialty shops. These stores will often have seasonal and recommended sake brews displayed prominently, so if you see something that looks appealing, why not give it a try? This way, you can often encounter hidden gems from smaller, less-well-known breweries that just may become one of your new favorites!
Another benefit to enjoying sake at home is being able to savor the subtle changes in flavor that occur with the passage of time. From the fresh first sip from a newly-opened bottle to the richness of the final cup you pour a week later—and everything in between—you’ll get a new appreciation for the myriad faces of sake. Try the same sake in different cups or glasses, note the delicate changes as it goes from chilled to room temperature—you’ll soon discover that every sip of sake is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if you’re even not a heavy drinker, have no fear! As long as your sake is stored properly (refrigerated for nama-zake or unpasteurized sake, or out of direct sunlight for hi-ire or pasteurized brews), you don’t have to worry about it going bad. (That’s right—sake has no expiration date.)
Enjoying sake with food also doesn’t need to be a complicated affair. While experienced sake sommeliers can come up with brilliant pairings, there’s no need to hold yourself up to the same strict standards. Good sake and good food are a natural match, and they’re sure to bring out the best in each other. If you’re enjoying a seasonal sake like natsu-zake in the summer or hiya-oroshi in the fall, try pairing it with similarly seasonal dishes or delicacies. Alternatively, try pairing a sake with local delicacies from the area in which it was brewed. You may find that sake brewed by the sea is a natural match for sashimi or grilled fish, or that sake brewed in the mountains goes well with wild vegetables and mushrooms. And if you thought that sake’s just for Japanese food, you might be surprised to hear that there are many eateries out there that pair sake with Italian, French, Chinese, and other international cuisines. So why not experiment for yourself? There’s no wrong answer—just a near-limitless variety of fascinating (and delicious!) discoveries to be made.
So if you’re looking to start enjoying sake in your everyday life, what are you waiting for? Pick up a bottle of sake and open it with dinner tonight, and you’re sure to be delighted with just how much it adds to your evening meal.