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Why Pairing Seafood & Sake Is A Sensory Gamechanger

For most of human history, we had no way of identifying what made certain dishes so delicious. We could describe sour, sweet, bitter, and salty sensations, but not savory. That is, until 1908, when Kikunae Ikeda discovered the fifth taste — umami. Umami is the essence of savory, giving life to some of the world’s most delectable ingredients like meat, soy sauce, and fish paste.

That same year, Ikeda identified the molecular happenings that take our taste buds on this journey. In short, he found that an amino acid called glutamate is largely responsible. Scientists have since expanded on Ikeda’s findings, saying there are nucleotides found in many foods that, when combined with amino acids, intensify the umami experience. It’s this interaction that gives alcohol and meat pairings so much depth, as the amino acids in alcohol pair exceptionally well with the nucleotides found in all meat.

This is especially true in the case of sake, which holds significantly more amino acids than most beers or wine, making it one of the purest tastes of umami that we have on Earth. Because of this, it outshines other alcohols in being paired with umami rich dishes, such as seafood, where most would think to drink something like a glass of white wine.

Sometimes, though, it’s best to drop the fancy talk and put things in layman’s terms. In Foodbeast’s new video regarding the drink, sake expert Chris Johnson says it best. Sake and seafood work, on a basic level, because “the seafood elevates the sake, the sake elevates the seafood, and you have a party.”

The video acts as a crash course in sake, as Foodbeast correspondent George Laboda travels to Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Los Angeles, CA to try nine different seafood and sake pairings. But first, he gets hit with the basics.

There are three overarching types of sake: Junmai, Ginjo, and Daiginjo, each carrying a different percentage of milling, a process that consists of polishing down the rice used to brew sake. The more it’s milled, the more the grain turns into a pure starch, producing a layered, textured brew. This does not, however, mean that as the milling percentage goes up, so does the quality. On the contrary, milling says quite little about quality, and more about the flavor of the sake and what food it might work well with.

The video works to show this by presenting nine different pairings by highlighting a variety of sake along the way — from a hazy, unfiltered desert sake to an unusually amber tinted sake — and their wide-ranging effects on our palate. Check out all the pairings below:

Course #1: Raw Oysters & Konishi Aosae no Sumikiri Junmai

Old Salt oysters topped with a kimchi vignette met a sharp Junmai that relaxed the brininess of the raw oysters.

Course #2: Grilled Oysters & Nanbu Bijin Shinpaku Junmai Daiginjo

The next course showed the textural application of sake by pairing a grilled oyster with a light, fruity Daiginjo whose velvety mouthfeel accentuated the kimchi butter that the oyster was slathered in.

Course #3: Crispy Oysters & Suzaku

A smooth Ginjo was used to cut the fattiness of raw oysters and make their sweetness pop.

Course #4: Hamachi & Nanbu Bijin Daiginjo

This Daiginjo pairs especially well with raw fish, as the dryness worked in cohesion with the lusciousness of the raw Hamachi.

Course #5: Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs & Shirayuki Junmai Daiginjo Daihouju

Playing off of spicy and sweet, these smoky deviled eggs were paired with a heavily aromatic Daiginjo with fruity undertones.

Course #6: Peruvian Bay Scallops & Horin

The sixth course featured another Daiginjo, but this time a microbrew that skipped the fruitiness and focused on a texture and mouthfeel that complimented the creamy scallops.

Course #7: Shrimp & Grits with Gochujang Sauce & Nigori

Nigori, a special type of unfiltered sake that produces a textured, thick mouthfeel, was paired with a spin off of a Southern classic to play with the gritty texture and spice of the dish.

Course #8: Grilled Octopus & Shirayuki Sake of Edo-Genroku Era “Year1702”

Made using half the amount of water as a normal brew, the Year1702 is amber-colored and naturally sweet, which provides for a phenomenal pairing with sweeter seafood dishes, like the Spanish-style octopus from the video.

Course #9: Lobster Roll & Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai

The final course coupled a lobster roll with a simple, clean-tasting Junmai to break up the intensity of the sauce that the lobster was tossed in.

Created in partnership with JFOODO. 


This Tofu Wine Actually Makes For Healthy Alcohol And Makes Good Use of Food Waste

Those who may have avoided alcoholic beverages for health reasons may now be lured back to the dark side with a healthy tofu wine.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore were successful in creating an alcoholic beverage out of tofu whey, according to CNET.

The new drink was appropriately named Sachi, which means “blossoming wisdom” in Japanese, and is meant to compliment the beverage’s sweet, fruity, and floral taste. Sachi’s alcohol content is also pretty mild, clocking in at about seven to eight percent ABV, making it a delicate choice of beverage.

According to the same article, Sachi’s creators say that the wine offers numerous health benefits such as high levels of calcium, probiotics, and even antioxidants called isoflavones that have shown to improve bone health, heart health, and prevent cancer.

One of Sachi’s greatest contributions, however, is probably the fact that it helps eliminate waste. Sachi is made of leftover liquid tofu whey, which is created while making beancurd, and is often just thrown away. However, when this leftover liquid waste is used for alcohol, it generates economic revenue for these businesses.

I’m pretty convinced that health benefits and environmental consciousness is definitely enough reasons to drink. Cheers!

Alcohol Toasty

Sip Or Shoot? An Expert Tells How To Drink Sake The Right Way

We here at Foodbeast love Japanese food as proven here, here and here. And what spirit pairs better with Japanese food than sake?!? With World Sake Day just passing recently (Oct. 1), we spoke with the Grape Experience Wine & Spirit School’s Marina Giordano DWS, one of the very few Wine & Spirit Education Trust Certified Sake Educators in the country about the way sake enhances the “umami” aka savory taste in food as well as the do’s and don’ts for sake newcomers. Kanpai!


How did you get into sake?

I was studying wine, and a friend introduced me to sake – I fell in love and had to know how it was made, why it tasted the way it did, and everything I could find out about it!

What’s the biggest misconception about the spirit?

That is just it – that sake is a “spirit.” It’s not distilled, it is brewed, similar to how beer is brewed. It’s alcohol strength is close to wine strength – 14 to 20% ABV. It should be consumed like a wine with food or alone.

What’s the difference between hot sake and cold sake? What’s your preference?

Hot sake is hot, cold sake is cold! [laughs] Seriously, most premium sake is served chilled, but depending on the style they may taste better warmed. Honjozo, Junmai, Yamahai, Kimoto and sometimes Koshu styles taste better warmed. These types of sake typically have more umami (savoriness), more cereal and lactic flavors, and just taste better warm or at room temperature. Ginjo, Junmai Ginjo, Daiginjo, and Junmai Daiginjo are typically more fruity, floral, and delicate and are better chilled. My preference depends on what I’m eating, what kind of mood I’m in, what the weather is like…

What are your thoughts on sake cocktails?

Some people believe this is the way to get non-sake drinkers to drink sake. I think it continues the misconception that sake is a spirit. I prefer my sake straight!

What about sake bombs?

No! They do have their place, but please don’t use the good stuff!

What are your top three do’s for new sake drinkers?

Do try lots of kinds! Taste all styles and grades. Just because you didn’t like a sake, doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there for you.

Do drink it out of a wine glass. The aromas and flavors will be more pronounced if you are drinking it from the right kind of glassware.

Do try sake at different temperatures. Start with it chilled, let it warm up, find the “sweet” spot that makes it tastes amazing.

What are your top three don’ts for new sake drinkers?

Don’t shoot your sake – it’s not a spirit, sip it like a wine.

Don’t get caught up in only drinking Daiginjo or Junmai Daiginjo. Yes, these grades have the highest milling rates and typically cost more, but it doesn’t mean they are better. There are some truly amazing Junmai and Honjozo sake out there! And these styles will often pair better with food.

Don’t be afraid to pair sake with non-Japanese foods. Sake pairs well with most foods – try it with anything, including pizza, pasta, steak, cheese, eggs, mushroom, potato, the list goes on.

What sake are you currently in love with and why?

It all depends on what I’m eating and what my mood is. Recently I opened Dewazakura Oka Ginjo “Cherry Bouquet.” Wow, what a beautiful sake! It is floral with pear, peach, and cherry aroma and flavors. I just love the aroma, flavors, and complexity of a great sake!

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Green Tea Sake Cocktails Are Definitely My Cup Of Tea

It’s officially March again, and you know what that means—every living, breathing creature around must acknowledge the fact that St. Patrick’s Day falls mid-month, by constantly alluding to the color green. Wearing green, painting your fingernails green, having your dog roll around on a freshly mowed lawn—it’s all actually required by law.

Okay not really. But really—green is celebrated on the daily every March, and with good reason. Not only does the hue remind us that good-ol’ St. Patty’s is right around the corner (and remind us of $$$), but green also inspires us to be conscious about the environment. Research has even shown that the color is naturally soothing to the human eye.

And, it also inspires some pretty cool edible creations. If you haven’t heard, we’re celebrating green every day this month with a special green-cooking challenge (not the eco-friendly kind of green cooking, but I’m sure Mother Earth would really dig that, too). The goal: fundamentally reimagine something under the terms “anything green goes.”

And though it’s technically green, the Japanese-inspired Green tea cocktail recipe below isn’t a contest entry, but it’s definitely perfect for celebrating March and March’s favorite color—with Green tea, sake, mint, and then some, you’ll be more than willing to get your green on with this drink all month long.


Photo by Marc Kharrat


6 oz Green tea

1-2 oz sake

½ oz simple syrup

Lemon juice

Ground ginger

Mint sprigs (for garnish)

1)   Brew Green tea with ginger. Let it steep 4-8 minutes.

2)   Add simple syrup, a few teaspoons of lemon juice, and sake.

3)   Combine the above with the tea in a glass, and mix well. Garnish with mint sprigs.

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3 Boozy Hot Toddy Ideas From Around The World

Tea is like denim—classic, universally appreciated, and won’t go out of style anytime soon due to its versatilitea. And, in addition to its various cultural significances and many health benefits, tea is straight-up delicious.

It’s delicious, and fun to experiment with, too. Just by adding a bit of spice here, a pinch of sweetness there—and if you’re 21+, a swig of the good stuff—you can easily create a truly unique drink. Obviously we’re enamored with the idea of a tea cocktail, given our history as self-proclaimed ‘alcohol auteurs,’ so we conceptualized three to share with our fellow tea lovers (call it hospitalitea). We looked to a few of the top tea-drinking countries in the world for inspiration.

To put a twist on the iconic “London Fog,” we combine earl grey with gin, vanilla and lavender to create a drinkable homage to the UK. India sparked an idea of uniting spicy chai with sweet condensed milk and dark rum to yield a Masala Chai Toddy. And you can’t have a conversation about tea without mentioning Japan; known for their use of green teas in both everyday and traditional senses, we paired it with sake, lemon juice, and ginger to build the “Gurīnmashīn.”

However you may take your cup of tea, just be sure that it’s qualitea…and that’s exactly what you’ll get with these toddy recipes.

Masala Chai Toddy

6 oz Lipton Enticing Chai tea

1 oz condensed milk

1 oz dark or Indian rum

Green cardamom pods

Cinnamon sticks (for garnish)

1)   Brew Chai tea with crushed cardamom and let steep for 4-8 minutes.

2)   Add the condensed milk, followed by the dark rum. Mix well.

3)   Using a fine sieve strain the liquid into a glass. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and crushed cardamom.

The Foggy London

6 oz Earl Grey tea

1-2 oz gin

1 oz  vanilla simple syrup

Steamed or very hot milk

Lavender sprigs

1)   Brew Earl Grey tea with milk and let it steep for 4-8 minutes.

2)   Combine all of the above ingredients, with 2 sprigs of lavender, and mix well. Garnish with lavender.


Photo by Marc Kharrat


6 oz Green tea

1-2 oz sake

½ oz simple syrup

Lemon juice

Ground ginger

Mint sprigs (for garnish)

1)   Brew Green tea with ginger. Let it steep 4-8 minutes.

2)   Add simple syrup, a few teaspoons of lemon juice, and sake.

3)   Combine the above with the tea in a glass, and mix well. Garnish with mint sprigs.


Photo by Marc Kharrat

Created in partnership with Lipton

Packaged Food

Kit Kat’s New Sake Flavor Lets You Turn Up Like A Cherry Blossom


Kit Kat is coming out with a new flavor this February: sake. RocketNews24 reports that Nestle Japan is releasing a new variation based on the popular alcoholic Japanese beverage of rice wine.

Sake flour is mixed into the Kit Kat wafer and covered with white chocolate. What you’ll get is a nice whiff of the sake, the sweet crunch of the Kit Kat and a light aftertaste when you’re near the end of the experience.

You can easily spot the package by it’s bright-pink cherry blossom design.

The chocolate-covered cookie will be available starting Feb. 1. You can buy them in a pack of three for 150 yen ($1.24 US).

Photo: RocketNews/Nestle Japan


Where The Hell The SAKE BOMB Came From: A Lesson In Irony

Sake bombs aren't Japanese

If you attended college in the US, you probably found yourself hanging out at a cheap karaoke bar at some point, eating mock crab California rolls and pounding sake bombs. If you’ve never had a sake bomb, you can either consider yourself as having missed out or, alternatively, greatly privileged. Sake bombs, typically comprised of cheap beer and cheap sake, are unpleasant, both in taste and consumption method. If you wish to subject yourself to a sake bomb, grab a glass of watery beer and lay two chopsticks over the cup’s rim. Atop the chopsticks, place a shot glass full of shlocky sake. Surround yourself with people who are willing to do the same. Then, collectively, yell this out:

Ichi…ni…san…sake bomb!  (Translated: One…two…three….DRANK!) Or, if you’re feeling a bit more barbaric:Sake…sake…sake…sake!At this point, everyone should bang on the table, causing the sake to fall into the beer. The resulting mix is to be guzzled quickly, before you can taste what you’re drinking. You might be wondering why the Japanese would invent a drinking game that subjects sake, a potentially delicious and often holy beverage, to such a strange practice.The answer is, they didn’t.

“…most Japanese think the West is crazy for wasting sake by dumping it into beer. Basically, doing a Chardonnay bomb would accomplish the exact same thing and how many oenophiles do you see doing Chardonnay bombs?”

The origins of the sake bomb are oddly mysterious, but there seems to be a consensus that the drink –  or drinking ritual, depending on how you look at it – did not originate in Japan, and is basically never practiced there. A few sources suggest that sake bombs were actually invented by American soldiers occupying Japan in the years following World War II. It’s hard to know if this history is ironic, or makes perfect sense.


Perhaps part of the reason sake bombs have proven more popular in America than they have in Japan is because many Americans believe that sake doesn’t taste any good. We think of it as something to be shot, rather than sipped. But the truth is, sake can be a downright delicacy. As Sake Social, an online sake retailer, brilliantly puts it, “…most Japanese think the West is crazy for wasting sake by dumping it into beer. Basically, doing a Chardonnay bomb would accomplish the exact same thing and how many oenophiles do you see doing Chardonnay bombs?”

Perhaps if we only had access to low-quality Chardonnay in the US, we would be kicking back Chard-bombs. Monica Samuels, National Sake Sales Manager for sake importer Vine Connections, believes that Americans have been consuming sake exclusively via sake bombs for decades because it was extremely difficult until recently to purchase premium sake in the US. Therefore, as only bad sake was available, we masked it like we would the taste of any cheap booze: by dousing it in mixers. In this case, the mixer was beer.

While you’re still welcome to throw a sake bomb down the hatchet – we’ve tossed back a few in our day – there are much better, less obnoxious ways to drink sake. Instead of boiling a bad sake to scorching temperatures or plopping it in a pint glass, enjoy a small portion of excellent sake with some light food, like a radish salad, rice, and a little fish. We recommend starting with Tozai Snow Maiden Nigori, which is easy to drink, fruit forward, and available onlineIchi…ni…san…good sake!

Written by Aliza Kellerman of VinePair


DIY Sake Kit Lets You Brew from Your Kitchen Countertop


While it’s probably not the same thing as ordering sake in Japan, or even a Japanese restaurant, it’s now possible to make the Japanese wine sake right at home. Like homemade beer kits, you can now order a sake kit and brew the stuff from the comfort of your living room.

The DIY kit comes with the basic needed to create the proper sake. Among those are yeast and short-grain polished rice, tubing, steeping bags, a fermenting bucket and a glass jug. Oh, and of course, instructions on how to make it. The only thing the kit doesn’t come with are white raisins and sugar, which you can swoop up at your local grocery store.

The sake kit is available for $57 at Uncommon Goods. It also should be mentioned that brewing your own sake, or any alcohol, can be dangerous. So stay safe, kids.

H/T Design Taxi