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September 17, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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Drinks Column – Sake

Although it is often known as “Japanese rice wine”, sake is actually produced by a process more similar to beer. Sake is made in a kura (brewery) using the main ingredients of polished rice, water, koji and sake yeasts.

The flavours and strengths of sake can differ depending on the style, but generally it is clear, slightly fruity and dry. In a sense, sake calls to mind a finely buffered tequila.

The Kazu Bar on Courtney Place has a more than decent selection of sake, but it is the reverence and service there which particularly allows the charm of sake to shine through.

One little touch with some of the brands is to place the sake glass inside the masu – a small lacquered box. The server then pours the sake in the glass until the liquid overflows into the masu. The overflow is a traditional sign of generosity and hospitality, and should be drunk.

The biggest choice facing a sake drinker is the perennial question of hot or cold. Personally, cold seems to showcase the natural flavours better, although hot sake is very popular in winter. Sake can be served in bottles (ranging from small to very, very large), a short glass or from ceramic flasks called tokkuri.

For the sake beginner, the Karatamba (“Big Wave”, 15%, $11) is a fine introduction to this noble drink. The Otokoyama (“Mountain Man”, 16%, $14) is a very famous brand and tastes exceptionally crisp and fresh.

To accompany sake, it is hard to go past the traditional Japanese bar snack of edamame (salted soy beans) and a cold Asahi beer.

Brewed for hundreds of years, sake consumption in Japan has been steadily declining for many years. This is being partially offset by increased international sales which are steadily rising. I’m certainly doing my share.

Kazu, Level 1, 43 Courtenay Place, 802 4868, http://kazu.co.nz/yakitori/index.html

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