Discover Gifu Saké Brought a Taste of Japan to NYC

Saké, the Japanese rice-based alcoholic beverage that’s brewed like a beer, escaped my purview until recently. I sampled the drink in the past, usually in very small amounts during masterful K-town karaoke sessions, but didn’t bother to learn more about it until I received an invite to attend the Discover Gifu Saké showcase. It’s one of the benefits that living in New York City affords.

Discover GiFu Saké was held in Astor Center, a space above NoHo’s excellent Astor Wine and Spirits. Japanese Brewmeisters and their assistants were in attendance to talk saké, drum up buzz for their brews, and hopefully sign deals with American distributors. In a way, the event was one part introductory class, one part media event, one part business meeting. I learned about the brewing process, fermentation, and what’s required to sell saké in the United States. That said, those elements never got in the way of the showcase’s core: The saké tasting.

I won’t get into the saké basics, as a site superior to mine does a fine job of explaining the beverage. Instead, I’ll touch upon the three drinks that I enjoyed the most. 

  • Junmai Yuzu Sake by Nakashima Saké
    This 8.5-percent liqueur is made with fresh yuzu juice and Kozaemon junmai saké. It’s an excellent blend that creates a delicious lemon-lime flavor that’s incredibly sweet.
  • Shirakawago Awa-Nigori Junmai by Miwa Shuzo
    This carbonated saké is created with an in-bottle fermentation technique known as the “Champagne method” that produces a refreshing, satisfying finish. It boasts an 11 percent alcohol volume.
  • Cody’s Saké Junmai Ginjo by Watanabe Saké
    Masterfully brewed by Darryl Cody,  the first American saké  brewmaster, to commemorate his 10th anniversary as the big dog. This Junmai Ginjo has a 15 percent alcohol volume and a wonderfully smooth and clean taste.

Whittling down the selections was difficult, because there were so many excellent selections. But, by god, I found the will to drink and drink and drink until the top three were determined.

So, my big takeaway from the Discover GiFu Saké event is this: I like saké quite a bit! I will add it to my drink catalog, as I prefer to down the Japanese brew instead of, say, wine or hard liquor. It’s lighter, cleaner (the filtered variety, anyway), and the taste is like a kiss from a rose.

Now I just need a set of those cool saké drinking cups.