BBC Good Food Magazine
ASK AN EXPERT
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.