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How to Best Enjoy Our Sake
Drink water between sips to keep your palate fresh and to stave off excessive effects of alcohol. Drinking enough water not only lets you enjoy the moderate effects of alcohol longer, but leaves you clear-headed when the affects fade. This is of course particularly effective for those that cannot drink much but would like to continue to enjoy a party in which a lot of sake is being consumed.
As is often said of wine, it is much more interesting to enjoy sake with food than by itself. When there are similarities between the sake and the food, they will pair well together. For example, clean sake with light food, rich sake with sweet and spicy food, or a sake that has been matured with food prepared using aged ingredients or spices. When in doubt, start by pairing sake and food that have similar aspects like this.
Shochu and sake are two of the few beverages around the world that can be enjoyed at a wide range of temperatures. The reason that one sake will taste different at various temperatures is that the balance of flavors and aromas changes, and the way that we sense those flavors and aromas changes as well.
Deciding what temperature at which to enjoy a sake or shochu based on the nature of the drink or situation at hand is part of the fun. “Drink clean-flavored sake chilled, and heavy sake warm,” is one simple and easy-to-use guideline.
Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream after the drink has been brought up to body temperature. So while cold beverages take a longer time to affect us, sometimes people mistakenly think that warm sake hits you harder because you feel the effects sooner. However, the effects of the alcohol actually wear off sooner, and since the body digests warm food better, it is said that drinking warm sake is a better way to enjoy it. Yet another point is that the organic acids in sake contribute to the sensation of umami when warmed.
One of the most interesting aspects of drinking sake is that the choice of vessel – it shape, the quality of the materials, size and thickness – all affect the sake-drinking experience. And this is not only a visual experience: the shape of the glass in particular will have a considerable effect on how we perceive aromas and flavors. Where the sake comes in contact with the tongue and the type of sake will of course affect things as well.
The flavors and aromas of both sake and honkaku shochu will indeed change slowly over time. Naturally, how it changes is related to both quality and storage conditions. There is no such date on wine bottles, and COODEX (an international standard for food) has also determined no date is necessary for alcoholic beverages. And in fact often we expect quality and value to both actually improve with maturity. However, heat and light both are detrimental, so it is best to keep anything not labeled “Keep Refrigerated” in a dry, cool and dark place. Also, once a bottle has been opened, it is best to drink it soon to ensure the original quality remains intact.