What is Sake in Sushi? Can You Drink it?

Sake is known as one of the most essential items to pair with sushi for a truly authentic experience, but there are still a lot of questions about this Japanese alcoholic beverage.

Why is sake a good alcohol pair of sushi? To start with, sake perfectly complements the flavor of many types of sushi and can actually act as a palate cleanser. This is great for those who are not satisfied with just the pickled ginger. It basically enhances the experience of eating this dish, both in terms of the taste and the atmosphere that it brings.

You don’t have to drink sake when you are eating sushi, but your appreciation for the dish would be greatly enhanced by it, though it can also prove disastrous if you are not careful.

What Makes Sake Great with Sushi?

Sake has been enjoyed in Japan for many years, but it has only been in the last five decades or so that the rest of the world has really begun to take note of the wonderful Japanese alcoholic beverage. It is certainly one of the most interesting examples of fermented drinks around and it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including:

·         Drinking

·         Cooking

·         Ceremonial practices

·         Gifting

Along with the rise of sushi’s fame came the rise of sake’s appreciation, since they are generally considered an excellent pair. In order to answer the question of what this is, you can take a look at the reasons stated in the table below:

Palate cleanserSake is an excellent solution for cleansing your palate, which basically prepares your tongue to appreciate the next piece of sushi in its purest form
Taste enhancerThanks to the effects of sake, the flavors of the ingredients and even their smells become more pronounced, thus allowing you to enjoy them even more
Muscle relaxantLike with any alcohol, sake relaxes your muscles, improves your blood flow, and basically allows you to focus more on eating
Stress relieverAs stress relievers go, sake is a particularly charming example because it can help make you less preoccupied and improves your social skills
AuthenticityFinally, drinking sake along with eating sushi just makes the whole thing a lot more authentic, which is another element to enjoying your dining experience more

As you can see, sake has some very important roles when it comes to eating sushi. The most important of them is arguably to allow you to be immersed at the moment even deeper. The better you can put all of your attention on the sake and the sushi, the more you can appreciate the dish. This goes doubly true when you choose the chef’s course when at a sushi bar.

The chef’s course is basically the chef throwing everything he has at you one at a time and this is where the wonders of sushi can really shine. You are being fed the specialty of a master and you are cleansing your palate as you go. This will then allow you to enjoy everything that the chef has to offer and to show more appreciation for the experience that you are getting in return.

What Exactly is Sake?

In its purest form, sake is basically just fermented rice. This is a traditional alcoholic beverage that is similar to many others that can be found anywhere rice is a staple food. It can take on many forms, from the variety that looks like a milky, cloudy liquid to one that is so pure, it almost looks like water. Naturally, clarity will dictate the quality of the sake too.

As for its taste, it can be described as very strong and punchy. It has often been said to be a mix of nutty, flower, fruit, and caramel in flavor. It can be compared to high-quality rum in this regard and much like any distilled spirit, it can be an acquired taste.

Sake is also enjoyed in a variety of different forms. It can be consumed in its purest form, either via small saucers, shot glasses, or traditional clay containers. It can also be used for cooking or marinating, for those who like to have a little kick with their barbecue. You can drink sake on its own or with a wide variety of different dishes.

There are also different versions of sake, from the lighter, less alcoholic amasake to ones that are almost like cocktails. Anyone who is not used to drinking pure sake might want to check those out and then work their way up so that they can fully enjoy the beverage as it was meant to be enjoyed.

How to Properly Drink Sake

Now that you know what sake is, you might be wondering how you are supposed to drink it. Well, this depends on a lot of factors such as how authentic you want the experience to be, where you are, and how high your tolerance for alcohol is. If authenticity is the issue, drinking sake warm is definitely the way to go.

There are many ways to warm sake and the most efficient way is to boil water in a point and then turn the flames off after it starts roiling. You will then place the bottle or clay pot of sake that you got in the pot and let it sit there for about three minutes. After that, you will need to take a drop of the sake and let it fall on your skin. It should be warm without being hot.

Of course, you can always enjoy sake straight from the bottle without really doing anything else. It has its own charms when you do it this way. You can even mix pure sake with other drinks like beer or distilled spirits if you like, but most people tend to despise the results. If you are feeling experimental, though, you can just go ahead and do it.

Related Questions

Are You Supposed to Take Shots of Sake?

If you really want to enjoy sake, you must never ever take shots of it. This traditional alcoholic beverage is meant to be sipped and enjoyed in small amounts. Downing it in one go is a surefire way to not only ruin the enjoyment you could have had with the drink but also to start a coughing fit.

Does Sake Give You a Hangover?

The great thing about sake is that it does not give you a hangover when you drink it since it is fermented spirits instead of distilled spirits. This means that it does not contain many of the elements that give you the headache, dry mouth, and body ache. This makes sake perfect for enjoying to the fullest.

Can You Dilute Sake?

Although there are many who prefer to drink their sake in its purest form, there are also those who can’t really stand its taste. For those who have a low tolerance for stronger spirits or just don’t want to get too drunk, too fast, what exactly can you do to dilute this wonderful beverage? Well, pretty much anything you want.

Pure sake can be mixed with a lot of things, including sweetened liquids and even other forms of alcoholic beverages. As already mentioned, there are weaker versions of sake called amasake where the taste is sweeter and less intense. You can use pretty much any kind of mixer that you can find in stores to make this traditional concoction more tolerable.

With that said, you are definitely encouraged to simply drink sake in its purest form because this is how you were meant to enjoy it. It can definitely be a bit of an acquired taste but if you think about it, this applies to sushi, as well.

Other Beverage to Drink with Sushi

If you absolutely don’t want to drink sake as a pair to your sushi, you can actually drink a lot of other things. You just need to make sure that they don’t clash with the flavors of the sushi that you will be served and that the beverage doesn’t end up muting the subtler profiles from the ingredients. Sushi is a mix of both high and low notes, after all.

Aside from sake, the absolutely best beverage to drink along with sushi would definitely be tea. Green tea would work since it is a pretty versatile beverage, but if it is available, you might want to go for ginger tea. Whatever you do, though, make sure to avoid coffee because it will coat your mouth and tongue, and you won’t be able to enjoy sushi anymore.

Another beverage that you absolutely cannot drink when you are eating sushi is any kind of carbonated soda. Those will destroy pretty much all of the flavors of sushi, even the stronger ones. If you can’t appreciate the taste of sushi as it was meant to be appreciated, what would even be the point of eating them? You might as well go to a fast-food restaurant if you only want to satiate your hunger. 

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