Sake is rarely spotted in the U.S. outside the gilded ghetto of sushi bars and Asian-themed nightclubs. That’s a shame, as the sakes I’ve tasted would brighten just about any occasion. At its best, cold sake (the warm stuff is generally less refined) boasts the versatility of liquor, the cerebral complexity of wine, and the visceral satisfaction of beer. There are hundreds of styles and brands out there, but here’s a selection of my favorites that you should be able to find at better wine and liquor stores anywhere.
Hiro Blue Junmai Ginjo ($40) is a crisp sake with a fruity edge and notes of blueberry and watermelon. The pricey but delicious Murai Family Daiginjo ($69) has tart grape flavors and an aroma of spring flowers. Yoshinogawa Gokujo Ginjo ($33) is a super-smooth sake with enjoyably complex notes of fennel and herbs. Oregon-based Momokawa has several affordable offerings, including its Organic Creamy Nigori Junmai Ginjo ($13), a silky sake with a citrus bite, and the Organic Medium Rich Junmai Ginjo ($13), with coconut notes and a nice balance of tart and sweet.
My favorite of the bunch come from TY KU, which offers a very impressive range of sakes and spirits. TY KU Black Super Premium Junmai Ginjo Sake ($28) is simply sublime. Brewed in Nara, Japan using 45% milled Akebono sake rice – putting it in the top 6% of the world’s sakes – it’s soft, smooth, and refreshing, with notes of vanilla and peach, the slightest hint of spice, and a mildly sweet finish. A grain of rice can come to no finer end. But as far as your evening is concerned, consider ending it with a fine Japanese whisky.