There's a new trend starting to emerge in the hippest corners of nightlife and restaurant culture, and it's not some new premium spirit or light up bottle gimmick. It's high-quality sake. It's smooth, it's light and please no matter what you do, never ask for it warm!
Alcohol trends seem to move almost as fast as fashion and music trends these days with only a slightly longer shelf life. We've done Vodka, hell some people are still ordering big bottles of Grey Goose, Gin didn't quite catch on, Rum drinks died with the Mojito and Bourbon is starting to peak. Now, what?
What's next is not a spirit at all but a rice wine that is served cold and sometimes warm but that's the cheap stuff. You probably haven't thought about sake outside of a Sushi restaurant much, if ever. It's always that drink that is contextually relevant, kind of like a Japanese beer, it pops into your brain as soon as you see raw fish being sliced up.
Why don't we think about sake outside the sushi bar or Japanese restaurant? Maybe it's time that we did. The flavors are mellow and delicious, not too heavy like wine or beer, so it goes down easy.
Sake is strong enough to get you tipsy (usually about 15% alcohol) but not so strong that you are going to make an idiot out of yourself before dessert. The hangover can be contained a lot better, unlike other cocktails. Drinking premium sake along with a good intake of water will make your morning much better than if you were swilling whiskey or sugary cocktails.
There are also a plethora of other sake health benefits including gluten free, low calories, lower acid content and many more.
Two brands in particular are starting to lead the sake charge into nightclubs and chic restaurants across world and they are SOTO and Enter.Sake.
Sake has been made and crafted for 1000s of years, but it's been desperately in need of a brand overhaul to catch on with the world's younger and hipper crowds.
Enter.Sake is about as cool as you can get and was established by legendary Techno producer Richie Hawtin, who has been a fan of the drink for decades. He has made sake an integral part of his club night Enter. in Ibiza every summer where he specifically brings in the sake for the bar as part of the experience.
SOTO, another leader in cool, is a new brand out of New York that was started by nightlife and spirits industry veteran Billy Melnyk and comes in a single variety, a Super Premium Junmai Daiginjo.
With its nod to modern design with a beautifully crafted bottle and Japanese denim cap wrap, the brand is already finding favor in many of NYC and Miami's top spots.
SOTO comes in around $40 a bottle and Enter.Sakes range from about $24 - $48 a bottle depending on the variety.
There are four main types of sake: Junmai, Honjozo, Ginjo, and Daiginjo. Check this article for more details on the flavor profiles.
What exactly is rice wine you may ask? Sake is a Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. Unlike wine, in which alcohol is produced by fermenting sugar that is naturally present in grapes, sake is produced by a brewing process more like that of beer, where the starch is converted into sugars, before being converted to alcohol.
So how do these new "cool" sake brands taste? I got a chance to sample all of them, and while I'm no sake sommelier I can tell you this, they were all excellent, but my two faves were the SOTO and the ENTER.Sake Shuhari 2015 Junmai Daiginjo
So if you are looking for a new beverage to add to your nightclub, bar or restaurant regiment sake is worth considering outside the confines of a Japanese restaurant. It pairs incredibly well with many cuisines, is refreshing and reasonably priced in most cases.
My prediction is that you will start seeing new sake bars popping up in markets like LA and NYC that defy the traditional sake joints in favor of a more modern and inspired approach.
Sake, it's not just for Japanese food anymore!