Archive for January, 2009

Super Bowl Sake

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

In anticipation of American sports’ most heavily watched event coming up this Sunday, we all know that there are some who are preoccupied with the game itself, others with the betting line, still others with menu planning, but all have one larger question looming in their minds… WHAT TO DRINK!

Yes, the easy answer would be “beer.”  Answer number two might be “wine.” Well, at least the easy answer is on the right track because a brew is what we had in mind too.  But this brew drinks like answer number two!  What is the mystery beverage that we’re suggesting?  You knew what it was when you saw who sent you this message…

So without further adieu, here are our sake recommendations to make Super Bowl XLIII a little more (or less, depending upon how much you consume) memorable…

 Tama no Hikari Junmai Daiginjo (Kyoto) and Umenishiki Sake Hitosuji Junmai Ginjo (Ehime) - Show your support for the Steelers by drinking sake whose label brandishes the team’s black and gold colors

Jokigen Junmai Ginjo (Yamagata) - Cardinals fans can have their own red and white label to answer with.

Kamoizumi “Shusen” Tokubetsu Junmai (Hiroshima) - A “big-boned” sake in the image of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Rothlisberger

Ken Daiginjo (Fukushima) - As in the first name of Arizona’s coach Whisenhunt

Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu (Tokushima) - Because it is without a doubt, THE best sake to have with chili and/or nachos!

Of course you don’t need a direct connection to choose the brew that suits you. So please stop by and visit us at SAKAYA. We’ll be happy to offer some more sake suggestions if you’re not a partisan of either team or aren’t having chili.


The Correct Temperature for Sake? It’s Up to You!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Sake can be enjoyed at a number of different temperatures depending upon the characteristics of the particular sake, weather, food accompanying it, the occasion, the mood, and/or your personal preference.  The Japanese believe that there is a specific temperature for maximum enjoyment of each sake for each person and have definitive terms for each.

We’ve heard of izakaya in Japan where there is a person who actually prepares the sake at the desired temperature for each customer based on his knowledge of their preference for each sake.  Although such precision of service is remarkable and unlikely to be available to many of us in the U.S.,  but for off-premise consumption, many bottles’ back labels offer suggested drinking temperatures.

What we suggest at SAKAYA is that you experiment on your own, using the guidelines offered on the bottle but also trying sake at a variety of temperatures.  You might start by chilling your bottle to hana-hie but leave the bottle out of the refrigerator as you continue to drink it to experience the change in flavor as the sake warms to suzu-hie.  If you’re drinking a particularly bold, earthy, or robust brew, you might then try warming it (see our previous post) to hitohada-kan or nuru-kan.   Take notice of the changes and at which point you most enjoyed the aromas and flavors.  You may want to go further and sample it with some appetizer-sized foods as examples of salty, creamy, sweet, sour, spicy foods to see which pair best with your sake.  Ah, but that’s a different post…..


sake temperatures

Sake Warmer

Monday, January 26th, 2009

sake tanpo

With the arrival of cold weather, kanzake (warmed sake) becomes a more top-of-mind drinking option. For our friends  who enjoy their brew temped, we sought an easy-to-use, inexpensive sake warmer {“sake tanpo (酒タンポ)” }from Japan. This one  is made from aluminum.  To warm sake, pour it into the tanpo and place it into a bath of hot water. It’s a brilliantly simple gadget.  When the sake reaches body temperature (use a meat thermometer), it’s time to remove it from the bath and imbibe.  More on this in an upcoming post about warming sake.

The question lingers though, what does “tanpo” mean? It doesn’t sound Japanese,  but it doesn’t sound English or Portuguese (from which some Japanese words originate), either. After a bit of research, Hiroko discovered the intriguing answer…

Tanpo from comes from yu tanpo (湯たんぽ), a bed warmer, “yu” (湯) means hot water, but “tanpo” is the mysterious word.  It turns out the word “tanpo” originally comes from the Chinese word 湯婆 (tangpo), the character 婆 means “wife.” The idea is that you hold onto your wife to keep you warm in bed. When the term “tanpo” came to Japan in 14th century, Japanese people added the modifier “yu” 湯 to identify the bed warmer.

Therefore, sake tanpo is the warmer of sake.   Pick one up or improvise your own to experiment with the pleasures of atsukan this winter!  We’re happy to recommend a few for you to try…..

Kamoizumi Shusen “Three Dots” Tokubetsu Junmai (Hiroshima)


Daishichi Kimoto “Classic” Junmai (Fukushima)


Naraman Muroka Junmai (Fukushima)


Chiyomusubi Tokubetsu Junmai (Tottori)


Sawanoi Kiokejikomi Iroha Junmai (Tokyo)



SAKAYA in Today’s Washington Post

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

washington post 1.7.09

We are very excited to have been included in the 1/7/09 Washington Post Style section article, In NY, a Yen for Japanese Shop (registration at is required)!


Please check it out online or in print (if you’re a subscriber or live in the DC Metro area).

Our 2008 Top 10…

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

“What is your best selling sake?” we’re often asked.   Now that we’ve completed our first full year, we thought it was a good time to answer the question for all with that particular curiosity.  And so, presented in Letterman fashion, the most popular sake among SAKAYA customers in 2008 are…

Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo

10.  Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo (Ishikawa)

Slightly rich fragrance with aroma of steamed rice and flavor, it is one of sake which goes well with a variety of foods.


Denemon Junmai Ginjo

9.  Denemon Junmai Ginjo (Niigata)

Delicate and clean sake with hint of honeydew and apricot, it goes well with sushi and sashimi as well as turkey or chicken breast.


Dassai Nigori

8.  Dassai Nigori (Yamaguchi)

This nigori is slightly sweet with clean finish, it goes well with spicy food and will stand up to Indian and Thai food.


Kikusui Junmai Ginjo

7.  Kikusui Junmai Ginjo (Niigata)

This sake in the beautiful bottle is popular for gifts as well for people who enjoy its clean, delicate flavor profile.


Miyasaka Yawaraka Junmai

6.  Miyasaka Yawaraka Junmai (Nagano)

A sake that is slightly on the sweet side,  it has a hint of coconut flavor with a clean finish.  It can be sipped as an aperitif or drunk with soy sauce flavored dishes.


Hana Hou Hou shu Sparkling Sake

5.  Hana Hou Hou Shu Sparkling Sake (Okayama)

This festive sparkling sake is infused with rosehip and hibiscus, and has a light pink color with slightly drier finish.


Yuki no Bosha Nigori

4.  Yuki no Bosha Nigori (Akita)

A delicate nigori with hint of strawberry and peaches, this sake is pleasantly fruity yet delivers a clean, dry finish.


Kokuryu Goyhaku Mangoku Junmai Ginjo

3.  Kokuryu Gohyaku Mangoku Junmai Ginjo (Fukui)

With the sleek, elegant look of  its recently redesigned bottle, this delicious sake became  even more popular as a gift item.  It is deep and full flavored with a slightly creamy texture and pairs easily with cheese as well as grilled, roasted, and broiled foods.


Dassai 50 Junmai Ginjo

2.  Dassai 50 Junmai Ginjo (Yamaguchi)

Altogether pleasing and easy to joy, Dassai 50 is delicate,  slightly sweet,  and elegant.


And, the #1 sake sold at SAKAYA in 2008 is…….

Kikusui Funaguchi Honjozo

1.  Kikusui Funaguchi Honjozo Nama Genshu

Unpasteurized and undiluted, this tasty sake in the novel package flies off the shelf quickly.  Rich and bold with hint of coco and chocolate, its convenient size and bold flavors (and low price) made it SAKAYA ‘s crowd-pleaser of the year!