Sake can be quite an intimidating drink for those who aren’t familiar with it. Like wine, there are a large number of factors that determine the flavor of your sake. Sake is best known as a traditional Japanese alcohol made from fermented rice. Aside from being the country’s national alcoholic beverage, it is known for being served during formal ceremonies, holidays, and grand events.
When you are trying to figure out what type of sake to put with your food, one of your top objectives should be “balance.”
For example, light cuisine is best paired with smooth, clean sakes, while richer cuisine goes great with a more robust sake. If you are eating a salty dish, choose dry sake. Following these rules of thumb, you can achieve a state of equilibrium among the flavors of the food and sake.
The key to achieving harmony with your sake is to pay attention to its finish. A crisp finish or a shorter length ensures that sake won’t get in the way of what it’s paired with.
Regardless of where you go that serves sake, the menu is going to include sake grades used for classifying options that are premium or super-premium.
The main feature of this sake is the strong rice aroma and flavor. It has a heavier, fuller taste and mouth-feel with a higher acidity. The best match is going to be something similar – like a rice-based dish featuring heavy seasoning. Foods that would go well with it are red meats and fatty meats like fish and pork belly.
If sake is labeled Ginjo or Daiginjo, it’s going to feature a fruity smell. Try to avoid super meaty or oily dishes with these sakes. They pair well with sushi and sashimi and also Chinese-style steamed fish or other mild fish dishes where the flavor will not overpower the sake.
Daiginjo literally translates to “big Ginjo” and that is because it is considered of a higher class than the Ginjo. If you’re looking for sake that is superbly fragrant, light in taste, with a full and complex body, and a quick finish, the Daiginjo sake is your way to go. It is, however, probably one of the most expensive sake.
Any type of unpasteurized sake is sake that’s skipped the heat treatment stages. It comes with a freshness similar to white wine, which enhances the characteristics of what you pair with it.
You can pair this type of sake as you would white wine.
These types are considered restaurant classics. They have an aroma that’s much more reserved for a dry and light palette. This is a universal type of sake, as it appeals to all tastes.
Futsushu/Honjozo is also a more fragrant sake that you can pair these sakes with virtually any type of food.