Japanese Sake: Perfect for the Cold Season! A Stylish Way to Savor “Kanzake”
Have you tried Japanese sake already? Japanese sake has a wide variety, depending on its raw materials, ways to brew them or breweries. However, the flavors and how to enjoy them varies greatly, depending on how you take your drink.
This time we are introducing stylish ways to drink sake, just perfect for the winter that is coming soon to Japan.
How to Drink Sake: The Temperature
The ways to drink sake could be broadly categorized into three groups by its temperature.
1. “Hiya zake” at room temperature (about 20 degrees Celsius).
2. “Reishu” when it is chilled.
3. “Kanzake” when it is warmed up.
By preparing sake at different temperatures, we can appreciate changes in aroma and taste.
We are introducing the third category of kanzake this time, and as a matter of fact, it has further detailed classifications including;
– “Hitohadakan” at about 35 degrees Celsius, feels slightly warm to the touch
– “Nurukan” at 38~40 degrees Celsius
– “Jokan” at 43~45 degrees Celsius
– “Atsukan” at about 50 degrees Celsius
This does not mean there are fine rules on the temperature depending on the kind of sake or situation. It means there are a wide variety of ways to enjoy sake as many kinds as there are.
When we drink kanzake, we keep it in a slender bottle called “tokkuri”, as shown in the above photo, and pour it into small cups called “ochoko” to drink it. Incidentally, this action of pouring sake is referred to as “oshaku o suru”.
How to Prepare Kanzake
There are several methods to prepare kanzake, but it is said that the best method to prepare sake deliciously is by “yusen”. This is a simple method you can do at home, so please try it for yourself.
1. First boil water in a small saucepan until it starts making small bubbles before coming to a boil.
2. Pour sake into a glass bottle (or tokkuri if you have one), and put it into the hot water prepared in step 1), as shown in the above photo.
3. Warm sake over very low heat. The length of time to warm depends on your preferred sake temperature. A guideline for 1 go (1 go is 180ml; approximate volume of tokkuri) is 1 minute for nurukan (38~40 degrees Celsius) and 2 minutes for jokan (43~45 degrees Celsius).
You can try various temperatures and find your preference.
Virtues of Kanzake
The good point of kanzake is in its taste, in addition to the fact it is warm.
When you hold kanzake in your mouth momentarily, you can appreciate the sweetness and umami (taste of glutamates) that is hard to catch when it is cold, and you can sense the flavor of rice, too. When kanzake passes the throat, you feel it softly spread through your body together with warmth, and you even feel it unwinds your heart.
In addition, alcohol absorption is easier on your body compared to cold drinks, and a point could be made that kanzake gives less fatigue to your body.
Stylish Way to Savor Kanzake According to “Funauta”
Once delicious kanzake is prepared, we would like you to pay careful attention on how to drink it, too. This time we are introducing settings referring to a Japanese popular song. Japan has many popular songs in which sake is mentioned, and these songs eloquently capture scenes involving Japanese sentiments and sensitivities.
The most impressive and famous among them is “Funauta” sung by Aki Yashiro in 1979. This song’s world starts simply without being fastidious about the temperature of sake or what the side dish should be. It says lukewarm sake and grilled dried squid will do. However, “when I quietly cherish the taste, only memories flow through my heart. When I taste slowly, I can hear my heart sob. When I sip little by little, lingering regret comes back to my heart.” The song expresses intense yearning for loss in the past, sad, painful feelings, together with softly warm kanzake’s aroma and tastefulness. It is a lonely song, yet it captured many Japanese people’s hearts. It was a big hit and has been sung ever since even today.
Immersing ourselves deeply in memories to face them and savor them slowly without adding bells and whistles. One may say this is the most stylish way of drinking kanzake. How about trying this in the cold season?