BBC Good Food Magazine

ASK AN EXPERT

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We asked Luke Bensley, founder of Birmingham’s Japanese-inspired cocktail bar Ikigai, to help us better understand sake.

1 ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SAKE?

If you’ve tried one variety and weren’t impressed, it doesn’t mean that you won’t like a different sake – it can be aged, sparkling, flavoured, sweet, sharp, light, cloudy, clear and everything in-between. If you’re new to the world of sake and find a place that has a good selection, ask the bartender for recommenda­tions. Or, if you’re feeling brave, dive in. If you find a sake you like, make a note of the style and flavour – this will help you choose something similar in future.

2 HOW DO I ORDER SAKE?

Traditiona­lly, a standard serving size is called a ‘go’ (180ml) – it’s served in a tokkuri (toe-ker-ee), a traditiona­l ceramic pitcher, with a set of choko (choh-koh) cups. The tiny cups may seem inconvenie­nt, but they’re a ritual in the consumptio­n of sake, as you are never to let your friend’s cup go dry. The cups force interactio­n between people – sake is always better enjoyed with friends. Higher-end sake is often drunk out of wine glasses, as this lets it breathe, bringing out the more subtle flavours.

3 SHOULD SAKE BE HOT?

It’s usually only the cheaper stuff that is served hot, as heating sake tends to round out its flavours, which makes the more inexpensiv­e options taste better overall. But, this doesn’t mean that hot sake doesn’t have its place. When the weather outside is cold, hot sake can act as a brilliant warming drink to brace yourself against the elements, as a hot toddy or other similar hot winter tipples do.

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