Bringing Sake Traditions To A Modern World

Le Paradis quizes Anna Greenhous, drinks journalist, on sake and the UK market. How would you drink sake? I generally prefer it slightly chilled in a wine glass if I’m trying to taste and enjoy all the aromas it has to offer. Wine glasses taper in at the top, capturing the aromas better than traditional, small sake cups. However the traditional way of drinking it out of a Japanese ochoko cup is also fun and has a place, putting sake into the context of Japanese culture and creating a new experience for non-Japanese consumers.

Do you think the traditional way should be protected?
I don’t think sake should only be served the traditional way. There is a place for it, however with more fusion menus appearing across the UK market, I think cold sake is best served in a wine glass. It brings out the flavours and aromas and makes it easier for people to differentiate between sake styles. Warm sake is better served in ceramic sake cups though, as they retain the heat better.

How would you pair sakes?
I would drink different sakes depending on the stage of the night. A daiginjo, sparkling sake or a light sake cocktail for an aperitif, a honjozo or a junmai with food and an aged sake or an umeshu as a digestif.

Sparkling Sake is appearing on the UK market. How do you think it will do?
Very well. It is a good introduction to sake, easy to drink and low in alcohol, a perfect aperitif or celebratory drink.

Do you see sake being an integral part of a home drinks cabinet in a few years’ time?
I would like it to be and I believe real foodies probably will start to drink it more at home, partly because it is unique and doesn’t fit into any wine, beer or spirit category, so once you know about it, you realise there isn’t really a substitute for it. The UK market still has a long way to go however, supermarkets need to increase the quality of the sakes on offer for this to happen.

What do you think people’s perception of sake is?
Most people have a bad experience the first time they have sake, usually because they drink a low quality, over-heated sake. The heat makes the alcohol evaporate off first, it hits and burns your nose before you even get to try it which is not a pleasant experience and gives the impression the alcohol is higher than it is. A lot of work is needed to introduce sake properly to the consumer to ensure they have a good experience.

How do you think consumers recognise a bottle of sake?
The branding of the label is very important with one side preferably in Japanese and the other in English. It helps when the name is easy to remember. Sake brands should also ensure the suggested serving temperature as well as the tasting note is clear on the back label. A lot of people look for this information.

Do you think sake holds a place on a wine list?
Yes, very much so. It works with lots of different types of food. Non-Japanese restaurants like The Fat Duck, Hixter and Toasted have sake on their wine lists. It’s a refreshing change from wine.

Are you of legal drinking age in your country?

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