Sake made its way to the U.S. from Japan shortly after World War II. Like wine made from grapes, sake has been around for thousands of years. It’s considered the national beverage of Japan, but it also has variations and followings across southeastern Asia. But why does sake still seem so mysterious, and why, with such a long history, should we give it so much attention now?
First of all, sake seems mysterious because Americans have been confused regarding what sake actually is. For years we have perceived it variously as watery beer or bad vodka, and almost always as cheap, unsophisticated, and served hot. These misconceptions are all based on very small truths. It’s true that being grain based, the fermentation of sake does indeed approximate the brewing of lagers and ales more than it does the fermentation of wine. And it’s also true that sake typically has more alcohol in it than wine (though usually about 17-18% alcohol, just a few percentage points higher than wine and much less than the 40-50% alcohol to be found in vodka). So what about being cheap and unsophisticated? Well, if you’ve had it served hot, it may well have been. But if you want to try a premium sake, served chilled as it should be, that shows subtlety and complexity like more expensive wines.
You’ll notice that our sake is presented differently, all of our sake are refrigerated in our special cooler. Unlike wine, sake does not improve with age, and is best stored chilled to keep the product at its peak of freshness. Nigori sake benefits greatly from refrigeration, Nama sake absolutely needs refrigeration as it is unpasteurized. Something you won’t immediately notice is the freshness on the dates of the bottles. Fresh sake is important to us here. Surdyk’s joins a short list of selected retailers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York that care for their sake in order to make the experience optimal for you, the consumer.
The Twin Cities market is increasingly sake savvy, and more consumers are approaching sake as an alternative to wine or beer with meals, as a main ingredient to cocktails and a delicious beverage to serve and savor on its own.
To help you make your selection, our staff is already well-educated on sake and on hand to help you pick the variety that will suit your needs and tastes, and includes Melissa Surdyk, who has received the designation of “sake specialist” from the Sake Education Council of Japan.
With such a large selection and price range there is certain to be something for every taste, whether you are just a beginner or a seasoned connoisseur.