Enjoying Sake: It’s All About the Temperature

For sushi purists who frequent Elk Grove restaurants that specialize in Japanese cuisine, selecting the perfectly crafted roll is a main priority. However, the meal isn’t really complete unless it’s being served alongside sake or Japanese beer. On top of that, the manner of serving sake differs slightly with each variety – some sake are best served cold, others warm.

The reason that temperature plays an important role in serving sake comes from the ideal in Japanese food culture that flavors should be simple and distinct from one another. With high quality sake, certain flavors become more evident at different temperature ranges. To experience these flavors, the sake needs to be served at just the right temperature so that each flavor can be properly discerned.

So, at what temperature should you serve which sake? While most brewers will suggest an ideal temperature to serve their sake, it often follows a certain pattern. This was the subject discussed by Noritoshi Kanai, a living legend in the Japanese food world who was responsible for introducing sushi to the West, and who has been anointed by the Japanese emperor as a “Living National Treasure,” in a presentation he delivered in 2010.

Entitled “Sake Temperatures: How Hot Is Too Hot?” he revealed that there are eight temperature ranges at which sake can be enjoyed. Each type of sake should fit into one of these temperature ranges – piping hot not being one of them – and the following general guidelines usually apply:

Fragrant sake like gingo or daiginjo: Drink chilled, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but don’t drink it cold, which will kill the delicate aroma and taste (like drinking white wine too cold).

Unpasteurized sake (namazake): Drink it a little cooler, in the 41-50 degree range, to bring out its crisp, fresh taste.

Rich sake like junmai or honjozo: These are perfect served room temperature or warm — kan. What is warm? Body temperature (98 degrees) up to 110 degrees.

If you don’t know the ideal temperature range to serve a specific type of sake, however, Mr. Kanai indicates that you can’t go wrong serving practically any type of sake at room temperature. Also, should you get your hands on truly high-quality sake, temperature becomes less of an issue. Top shelf sake can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or chilled – just not too cold, and again, never too hot.

With this in mind, remember that sake served at the right temperature so that the rich aroma and delicious mix of flavors is enhanced is something you can expect from the best restaurant in Elk Grove, CA. Head off to restaurants like Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar to enjoy some great sakes.

(Source: the right temperature to serve sake: a guide, The Japanese Food Report, February 7, 2010)
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