With high levels of magnesium, one of the minerals that helps fight fatigue and restore energy, there is no better treat to kick-start the body during hot sweltering summers — like the one we are having here in Tokyo. And why not add a refreshing element with a glass of sake while you are at it.
Although the pairing of chocolate and sake might sound a bit alien, chocolate and sake are a match made in heaven — as if chocolate on its own wasn’t heavenly enough.
Chocolate and Sake Were Meant to be Together
Sake is perhaps not the first thing that pops into your head when you think of alcoholic beverages that pair with chocolate, at least not before whisky or brandy at any rate. It is the nutty and, depending on the cacao content, earthy notes that have such a naturally high affinity with many types of chocolate. That’s why nuts and sake provide such a successful pairing.
While sake has always had inherent potential to pair with chocolate, it is the constant evolution of sake driven by brewers adopting influences from the wine world and beyond that is opening this pairing up and unearthing new possibilities. Particular recent trends of note are sake that is sweet but has more acidity, or aged sake that has a bold profile with mild sweetness. These types were born to be paired with chocolate.
For a long time, the idea of pairing sake with chocolate was taboo because people couldn’t see past the difference in sweetness levels. But in actual fact, putting the sweetness to one side, sake can add depth to the more cacao rich types of chocolate. In these pairings, the chocolate reciprocates by bringing cocoa and chocolate notes out in the sake itself. Although sake does hold its own against the sweeter chocolate better than people would expect it to, it is the bitter chocolate types that offer more reliable pairing results.
6 Sake Characteristics That are a Natural Match with Chocolate
1. Mature Aromas and Flavours
Although in general, sake is brewed to be enjoyed young, aged sake is growing in popularity. Brewers have only just begun to explore its potential. As sake ages, depending on the storage temperature, it sometimes develops colors reminiscent of mature whisky, with aromas and sweetness that match chocolate just as well. Any sake that has undergone more than 2 years of ageing is labelled as a koshu (aged sake).
Just like wine, any acidity in sake accentuates the sweetness of chocolate. Although the acidity of sake is generally quite low, brewers have begun to develop styles with higher acidity to increase the pairing potential with western cuisine.
Sake often gets a bad wrap for being too watery, but there are plenty of styles with higher levels of viscosity. Some sake could be described as luscious because of the way that they coat the mouth.
In general, these luscious sake pair best with the more rich, heavy chocolate.
4. Rich Rice Flavours and Aromas
For example, the rich rice-laden creaminess of nigorizake (cloudy sake) creates a wonderful melt in the mouth combination with white chocolate and the milkier types.
This is an obvious one, but the general rule is match chocolate with sake that has similar levels of sweetness. Although, bitter and sweet combinations can sometimes be surprisingly successful if you have enough of the other suitable characteristics to offset the imbalance. Such pairings very much depend on individual tastes and so are considered a bit risky.
Chocolate x Sake Pairings You Can Try at KURAND
Here is a list of pairings you can try at KURAND.
A Rice Wine: Te-Hajime
Te-Hajime, is an original KURAND product produced in a partnership with Fukunishiki Shuzo in Hyogo Prefecture. It is our answer to the question: What would sake taste like if it really WAS a rice wine? It is lower in alcohol with inherent sweetness from the rice, and has a very pure taste like wine with citrus and tropical fruity notes that might remind you of German Riesling.
This sake pairs best with dark chocolate.
A Sake Made with Sake: Chou Chou Chou
Whereas normal sake is made with 130 parts water, kijoshu replaces some of the water with alcohol. That’s right, sake made with alcohol. The extra alcohol raises the alcohol strength in the fermentation so that it reaches a level that the yeast can no longer operate (it has a low tolerance to alcohol) much quicker. The yeast stops fermenting very early leaving lots of residual sugar. And so of course, kijoshu is normally pretty sweet. Chou chou chou is a kijoshu by Ishii Shuzo. Another KURAND original product. What makes this kijoshu so special is the fact that all the water was replaced with alcohol.. and not just any alcohol — sake. The previous year’s kijoshu in fact. This is the definition of luxury in a bottle. This has also got to be one of the best kijoshu to pair with chocolate. Kijoshu not only ticks the box for sweetness but it also has a much more viscous texture which as explained above are all favourable characteristics for pairing with chocolate.
Find more information about Te-Hajime, here.
I Love Choco
Not satisfied with the chocolate pairing potential of aged sake on paper, we decided to put to the test by producing our own aged sake as a KURAND original product together with Kanbai Shuzo in Saitama. Since our objective was creating sake to pair with chocolate, we named it “I Love Choco”. Its mellow flavor profile with notes of nuts, cedar and oak releases it true potential with the more cacao rich chocolate types, but supermarket bought chocolate also pairs well minus the complexity.
With its mellow and gentle flavor, and nutty and woody aroma, jukuseikoshu matches with chocolate perfectly!
Find more information about I LOVE CHOCO, here.
Tips to a Successful Pairing of Sake With Chocolate
How about a few tips to enhance your chocolate and sake pairing experience.
2. Drink The Sake While The Taste of The Chocolate Still Remains
Make sure you drink the sake while the taste of the chocolate still remains. Enjoy a new way of sake pairing by tasting the combination of chocolate’s sweetness and the bold taste of the aged sake!
※ Make sure to drink the sake after you finish eating the chocolate. Drinking the sake with chocolate in your mouth will reduce the pairing effect to half. We strongly suggest to drink the sake while the taste of the chocolate still remains.
Warm Up Your Sake
You can enhance the flavor of aged sake like jukuseikoshu by warming it up. The bold taste of warm jukuseikoshu matches perfectly with chocolate.
Enjoy Sake and Chocolate Pairing with Nurukan (40℃)!
The temperature just keeps on rising, so why not pop into KURAND and chill out with a plate of chocolate and a glass of sake. Our staff look forward to welcoming you soon!