Warm sake in the winter is already an accepted piece of sake culture. But did you know that warm sake tastes just as good in the summer. It might sound a bit counter-intuitive, but it can have the same cooling effect as a hot curry. Read on to discover a few handy tricks to help you warm sake this summer.
Types of Warm Sake
First, a quick review of the various types of hot sake.
Every 5-10 degrees along the thermometer, the flavour of sake changes dramatically and each temperature variation comes with a special term.
The temperature of warm sake will decrease after poured into the glass, so warming up your sake to a slightly higher temperature is recommended.
In general, sake with bolder flavor profiles, such as many junmai, taste best when warmed. kimoto and yamahai are also good candidates, often developing aromas of freshly cooked rice.
3 Methods to Prepare Warm Sake
Immerse in Warm Water
The simplest way to warm sake is to fill a tokkuri or special cup called a chirori with sake and immerse it into a preheated water bath. That’s basically how we do it at KURAND. Only, we use a special machine called a shukanki. Without this, it might be a bit impractical at home, but this is the best way to warm sake; warming sake slowly in this way gives the sake a milder flavor. The water should be heated to about 80 degrees and it is best to preheat the water, then turn off the source of heat before inserting the container. 2-4 minutes in the water is normally enough to warm to atsukan level.
Warm in Microwave
You can also use the microwave. In fact, this is the easiest method for home. You simply pour the sake into a tokkuri or microwaveable container. Be careful not to fill to the brim as it might overflow. The temperature of the tokkuri may be different at the top and bottom so take care when handling it. Perhaps the biggest problem with the microwave is that it can be a little too powerful sometimes to warm to exact temperatures. For astukan, it does the job.
Warm on an Open Fire
Warming on an open fire is another option. Pour the sake directly into a pot and heat on a high heat for about 30 seconds. Take care not to boil it, because alcohol starts to evaporate at around 78 degrees C. This is the fastest way to warm sake, but sometimes throws the delicate flavours off-balance.
Incidentally, sake that develops desirable aromas and flavors when warmed is called kanagari.
Tricks to Make Delicious Warm Sake
Let the Sake Rest Once During Heating
This is recommended when using the water bath method. After About 1 minutes of heating, remove the tokkuri from the warm water and let it rest for 30-40 seconds before returning it to the water and heating for another minute. This little trick helps transfer the heat through the tokkuri, and makes the sake milder in flavour as well as enhancing the aromas.
Cover The Tokkuri with The Sake Cup
This trick prevents precious aromas from escaping when warming sake. Preheating the sake cup prevents it from altering the temperature of the tokkuri. When you don’t have a sake cup to hand, plastic wrap or aluminum foil works just as well.
Put Disposable Chopsticks Into The Sake Bottle
This is a great trick to use when warming sake in the microwave. The disposable chopsticks help distribute the heat to the sake, and you can enhance the effects by stirring the sake. As an added bonus, the woody smell of the chopsticks often add a nice extra little aroma to the sake.
Put It In Cold Water After Preheating It
Dipping the tokkuri in cold water for 5 seconds after warming produces a milder taste.
Pour The Sake Into Different Sake Bottle
Prepare two different sake bottles, and pour the sake into one of the sake bottles. Preheat both sake bottles in the microwave or in hot water. Pour the preheated sake into the empty sake bottle By doing this, the heat will transfer through the sake evenly.
Use Aluminium Foil
This trick, introduced by Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association, is useful when heating sake with the microwave. Covering the tokkuri / container with aluminum foil helps reduce the difference in temperature between the top and bottom of the tokkuri.
Mix The Sake With Water
When warming Genshu (undiluted sake), mix a little water in. This will make the sake less aggressive and easier to drink. It also has the rather odd side-effect of making the aromas more fragrant. And of course, adding water reduces the alcohol content of the sake.
Take care not to over dilute the sake causing it to become thin.
Put Lemon or Yuzu
Adding lemon or yuzu gifts an altogether different taste sensation. Add a squeeze of a slice of lemon or yuzu into your cup first before pouring in the warm sake and let the sake extract aromas and flavor of the fruit.
These are just some of a number of tricks that you can use to enhance the flavor of your warm sake. Why not invent your own It is all part of the fun of sake.
Must Have Items for Enjoying Warm Sake
Various items are available on Amazon Japan to help you add a touch of class and tradition to your warm sake experience. You can use these items at home, and you can also bring these items to KURAND SAKE MARKET!
Sake Jar from Maekawa Kinzoku Co., Ltd.
Made from aluminum, this sake jar is the perfect tool for warming sake. As aluminum is a better heat conductor than other materials, warm sake can be made in a fraction of the time. It is also perfect for camping and other outdoor uses.
The jar is available to buy on Amazon Japan here.
Image Source: Amazon
A good thermometer, in particular a specialized sake one, is a must have item. This thermometer is marked: atsukan (warm sake), nomigoro (time to drink), and nurui (not warm enough). It is super easy to use and no sake kitchen is complete without one.
The thermometer is available to purchase from Amazon Japan here.
Sake Thermometer from KATARIKI CO., Ltd
Image Source: Amazon
Compared to the previous thermometer, this is marked with a more specific temperature guide. Perfect for the intermediate drinker.
The thermometer is available to buy from Amazon Japan here.
Traditional Sake Heating Pot Set
This is how they used to warm sake before the advent of the warming machine and microwave. It comes with a sake cup. It will keep your sake warm for long periods.
This bottle is available to buy from Amazon Japan here.
And there you have it. A few little tricks are all you need to enjoy warm sake at home. All branches of KURAND are equipped with sake warming facilities so why not pop down and enjoy warm sake and maybe discover some new sake in the process. There is no better place to enjoy sake.