How to drink imo shochu

What is sake and how do you drink it?
"When it comes to eating, sake often makes a lot more sense than wine"

Sake expert Marc Nydegger explains that sake is by no means rice schnapps, as many suspect. He also says how to combine the traditional Japanese drink with food, and even combined individual snacks with Western dishes for us.

NZZ Bellevue: What are the characteristics of a sake?

Marc Nydegger: With an average of 15–15.5 percent by volume, sake is not rice schnapps, as many suspect. In terms of its design, the Japanese national drink fermented from rice and water is closer to beer. In addition, it has a sometimes subtle, sometimes very clear umami note, which comes into its own when it comes to food pairings.

So sake is not a substitute for white wine?

No. It forms its own beverage category, which must be approached neutrally. Sake is also much less acidic than white wine. Not only does it bump up less, but in some cases also makes a lot more sense than a wine when pairing. A strong, earthy sake goes perfectly with asparagus or artichokes.

How is sake traditionally drunk?

Especially in company, with appetizers or as a meal accompaniment. The focus is on the shared enjoyment experience, so you often pour each other too. In Japan, people also drink beer or shochu, a distillate, mixed with water or on the rocks with meals.

Should you enjoy sake warm or cold?

The nice thing about high-quality sake is that it can be enjoyed from cool to room temperature to warm. Depending on the situation, different tastes and aromas unfold. When warming a full-bodied sake, the sweetness of the rice note intensifies. Light, filigree sake is best enjoyed chilled out of a wine glass.

Which flavor combinations are particularly favorable?

A sparkling sake or a light, fruity product is something nice with an aperitif or with light dishes such as fish. Strong, umami-accentuated sake are ideal for grilled meat or sausage. Sake can also be drunk with sausage and cheese platters and even with a fondue. Certain types, such as a Shirayuki Edo Genroku (see page 16), are also wonderful as a dessert accompaniment.

Can you also cook with sake?

Absolutely. There is also cooked sake, which has to be cheaper but not necessarily of inferior quality. Sake is suitable, for example, for deglazing onions. I also like to prepare sugo with sake instead of red wine, marinate meat with it or put vegetables in it. Because, depending on the product, sake brings new, exciting and spicy notes into play. I also only use sake for risotto. So it's good to play with.

What would be a faux pas?

Don't get involved in this exciting challenge!

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