Sommelier Talk: Episode 13 – The Psyche When Drinking Sake

What goes through a person’s mind when they sit down with a glass of sake? Could it be on the flavor pairing and compatibility with the food just ordered? Is the sake to be a festive drink to share with family and friends, or perhaps for the purposes of simply relaxing the mind while appreciating the world in front of him? Is it to commemorate a special occasion, or perhaps, to offer temporary escape from a somber situation?
As adults, we come across many sake encounters, yet we don’t usually give it a serious thought to become fully aware of the brew’s offering. After all, it is an alcoholic beverage among many types, and just like them, intake in volume causes the same intoxicating results. There’s nothing wrong with people drinking specifically for that purpose. Usually, beers and distilled liquors are their preferred choices for a quick and inexpensive means to reach their “happy state”. Jizake, on the other hand, are found at Japanese restaurants, where selection practices are quite different, where brand, quality, place of origin, and compatibility with their food selection all come under consideration.

Most consumers don’t go overboard researching sake rice types or details on how individual sake brews differ. After all, it all comes down to personal flavor preference – whether it’s tasty or not, high quality or not, it’s just a plain and simple individual choice. Therefore, for foodservice operators to feature sake selection based solely on their personal preferences, could lead to lost revenues simply by not realizing the maximum food pairing opportunities for their guests.

Here is a short list of suggestions that offers a pleasant dining choice while covering all profit potential.
1.) Research the sake characteristics, and then match them with the food dishes based on their best flavor pairing.
2.) Identify positioning statements for each, and their corresponding serving methods.
3.) Review the list to detect areas to supplement. This exercise should be made a routine, along with changes in the seasonal food menu updates. Crafty restaurants would do this, rotating with monthly specials or happy hour menus, to keep their offerings interesting.

As a sake sommelier, the message I’d like to convey is that sake should be appreciated in the same way one would appreciate music and art. Searching for what each sake is trying to communicate can become a most insightful discovery into Japanese culture and geography. Such practices would not only increase sake appreciation by the general public and contribute to added sales, but will expand sake enjoyment beyond Japanese restaurants and into American homes, perfectly chilled, lined up along with wine