honmura_an_logo.gifIn New York City, we have more opportunities sip Japanese sake than maybe just about anywhere outside Japan. On the one hand, this may very well be the reason I have never been able to find the money for a down-payment for a condo. On the other hand, Scott and I have discovered some superb sake and had some utterly sublime meals.

My recent experience at SoHo’s Honmura An (170 Mercer St, 212-334-5253) was just such a Condo-Payment-Be-Damned transcendent sake-food pairing experience.

This place is off ‘da hook. We both loved it, and before we get to the sake, let me say straight away we had the best service. Our waitress was attentive, efficient, informed yet completely unobtrusive. Such a rarity in NYC, I felt like visiting royalty.

Tsukino_Katsura_Yanagi.jpgHonmura An’s claim to fame is the soba, but I focused more on the sake. The Sake menu was substantial but not overwhelming. There were some sakes that I knew such as Kubota Manju, Tamano Hikari, Urakasumi, and Harushika Choukara .

I decided to go with a tokkuri of Tsukino Katsura “Yanagi” (Junmai Ginjo, Kyoto Prefecture, ). The hammered metal tokkuri was quite beautiful and solid. The ochoko was made of the same metal and was also heavy. I liked this substantial sake service – it made me “weigh” each sip and pour so my sake actually lasted longer. The sake itself was really, really good. I was happy with my selection! “Yanagi” was lightly fragrant as well as smooth and perfectly balanced on the palate. The flavors were elegant and nicely complex. The finish lingered a bit which was a happy way to end each and every sip.

Hitori_Musume_Nigori.jpgScott ordered the Hitori Musume Nigori (Ibaragi Prefecture) This Nigori was really good without losing any street cred. It’s light – not a lot of thickness or texture to it. There is a noticeable Alcohol kick on this finish. I found it a tiny bit rough and tumble around the edges, but overall a solid choice. I would recommend Hitori Musume to people freaked out by chunky nigori soup.

Scott’s nigori was served in an raw wooden masu with salt on the side. I’d never seen this done anywhere else I’ve been and this would be my only critique of Honmura An. The raw wood can really do a number on the nuanced flavors of some sakes and it’s not recommended. I did a little research on this whole ‘salt on the side’ thing and found this John Gauntner’s Newsletter from 2002:

The pinch of salt on the corner is interesting as well. According to one source (there are sure to be many opinions), the salt should not be placed just on the corner, but a bit to the side of it, so that when one drinks, the salt touches the corner of the lips, not dead center. This allows the sake to be the main flavor, with the salt on the side. Note, the salt should not be allowed to fall into the sake.

Why salt? According to the same source (a historian at one of the large breweries in Japan), the salt was more for the proprietor than the consumer. Salt is often used in purification rituals in Japan, as well as for good luck in drawing customers to places of food and drink. Apparently this superstition was one big reason for putting the pinch of salt on the edge of the masu. But again, there are sure to be other interpretations.

Also, long ago sake was stronger and much sweeter, and simple things like salt and miso were often used as snacks while drinking. A bit of salt was also thought to stimulate the appetite and make the sake itself more enjoyable.

So if you go, just ask for the metal tokkuri and not the masu.

Just a quick word about Honmura An’s shrimp tempura. I guess this shrimp is flown in from Japan and it has a price tag to match, but you cannot miss it if you go to Honmura An. Scott’s sake paired beautifully with this and, well, yum!

So, if you don’t have any qualms about putting off your visit to the mortgage loan officer at the bank, book a reservation at Honmura An instead. You may live in a rental for a little while longer, but I promise you, you’ll eat like a king.

Orbit trajectory Sake Captain’s Log, Stardate 1215.6 — I was recently invited to join some friends at awesome Sake Hana (265 E. 78th St btw 2nd and 3rd Ave 212-327-0582) to try Tsukasabotan “Space Sake”. Sake from outer space? Well, not exactly… It’s actually sake made from yeast that was blasted into orbit. Houston, do we have a problem? …could this all be a big marketing gimmick?

Turns out, Space Sake is for real. The Japanese “Space Sake Committee” from Kochi Prefecture negotiated with the Russians to send yeast into space via a Soyuz rocket for 10 days, from Oct. 1 – 11, 2005. Starting in April 2006, Sake made from this high flying yeast was made available to the general public.

And now I was about to Boldy Go into the world of space sake. First the stats… Tsukasabotan Tosa Space Sake space_sake_bottle.jpg(Kochi Prefecture, SMV +5, Acidity 1.5, Seimaibuai 55%). When I first tried this sake, the thing i noticed was light hints of fruit on the palate and in the nose. To me, it was very specifically strawberry. So in a nutshell, Outer Space tastes less like a dark, infinite void and more like a strawberry Lifesaver.

The finish was short and also had light fruit tones – kind of lychee-esque. Overall, space sake didn’t send me over the moon, but it was good. This sake was refined and smooth and enjoyable but for my palate it lacked that balance that I like best, but I’m sure there are others who will love this stuff.

To make things even more interesting, Toshi, our host at Sake Hana, offered me a sip of two other sakes made by Tsukasabotan to contrast and compare the tastes. They were Tsukasabotan Junmai (ALC 15.5%) and Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku (Tokubetsu Junmai, SMV +8, Acidity 1.4, ALC 15.5%). Tsukasabotan_sake_smackdown.jpgThese two Earthbound Tsukasabotan sakes are ones I’ve tried before, so I already had an idea of their flavor profiles, but I was excited to do this comparison.

This head-to-head tasting was like the tale of the 3 bears.

The plain old Junmai was earthy and a bit dank, the space sake was not quite balanced for my taste, but the Senchu Hassaku was just right!

Tsukasabotan Senchu is cool. Even the label is written in orange neon kanji. This sake has a unique flavor profile and I highly recommend it. It’s dry, but smooth and supurbly balanced. Watch for a quick finish. I think this sake is a real treat and for my yen, it’s the best value, too.

Sakurai_san_Ai_san.jpgIt was a lot of fun going in this space adventure with my friends Toshi-san, KC-san, Tomo-san, Lefty-san, Min-san and Ai-san. Even Mr. Sakurai made an appearance! The Star Trek geek in me loved the romantic notion of “space sake” orbiting the earth, but the jaded New Yorker in me was left wondering – do I really taste anything special? When all is said and done, i’m going to give in to the romance of space travel. Who wouldn’t want to rocket to the stars? Even if it’s only for a few sips.

kamotsuru_gold.jpgEvery year, my office partakes in the age old tradition of “secret santa”. Everyone gets a name at random of someone in the department and has to buy them a $10 gift which are exchanged at the holiday luncheon. Now, the operable word here is “secret”. My office takes this very seriously and the giver is not revealed even after the holidays.

I was looking forward to the holiday but had no great expectation for my secret santa gift from co-workers. When I arrived at the lunch, I sought out my gift to give it a good shake and discovered right away it was a bottle. Dare I hope? Could it be sake?!

My turn finally came and I was surprised that it was sake! My Secret Santa, who by the way is STILL a secret, picked up a 180 ml bottle of Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold Daiginjo (Kamotsuru Brewery, Hiroshima prefecture, Seimaibuai 50%, SMV +1.5, Acidity 1.4, ALC 16.4%). Word’s gotten out at work… I’m a sake fiend.

I have to say I was very impressed with Santa. This is a sake I have never even seen before and I was excited to try. The first thing I noticed was that this seemed like a “gift giving” sake. There were two pieces of gold leaf floating around in the bottle and they were pressed to be shaped like little cherry blossoms. (yes, they are meant to be consumed). I drank them down with gusto and didn’t even notice they were there.

Made with underground water from Kaga mountain, the color had a very slight cast of yellow which I assume came from the gold flakes. For me the nose was very faint and fleeting. The taste on the palate was a tiny bit on the dry side and maybe even a bit sharp but rich and not at all unpleasant. The alcohol stayed nicely in the background. The main characteristic of this sake for me was the super looooong finish. It just keeps going and going and going like the energizer bunny. The flavor and essence of this sake has staying power. I enjoyed it.

According to the Importer’s website (Mutual Trading Co, Inc.), Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold is “known as the first Daiginjo Sake ever produced and seen in the history of saké making in Japan”. That’s pretty cool!

Secret Santa, whoever you are, thanks for introducing me to a great new golden nugget! God bless us, every one!

hagi001.jpgI’ve been on the lookout for a sake bar that could become my “Cheers“. You know – “where they they always know your name…” Sake Bar Hagi has been on the short list since our first visit last September and a recent trip there made Hagi’s a front runner!

There’s a lot going for this place: The Time’s Square location is central, the service is friendly, the japanese bar snacks are yummy, and the atmosphere is casual. The one thing that impressed me the most, however, were the offerings on the seasonal sake menu. I discovered on this visit that Hagi was offering three Autumn Namas. Namas made for the Fall are much less common, so I was excited to find them at Hagi.

Urakasumi_hiyaoroshi.jpgNama of course is unpasteurized sake (sometimes called “draft” sake). It’s usually produced seasonally for the spring and is extremely perishable so it’s meant to be consumed quickly. These springtime Nama sakes are known for the expansive fresh, alive flavor. Autumn Namas seem to me to have an earthier, huskier countenance while still having a unique “alive” dimension that all namas provide.

The first sake I tried was Urakasumi Hiyaoroshi (“Misty Bay” Miyagi Prefecture, SMV +1.5, Acidity 1.4). This sake came across as quite fruity, although my initial reaction was that it tasted one-sided and one dimensional. This point aside, I found it quite delicious, with a hint of nama freshness, but more subdued that what you would find in a springtime nama.

pouring_wakaebisu.jpgNext I had some of Scott’s Wakatake Onikoroshi Akino ki-Ippon (“Demon Slayer, Shizuoka Prefecture. SMV +1, Acidity 1.4). Hello badboy! This nama was bigger, bolder and brasher than the Urakasumi. I felt a little scratch from noticeable alcohol on the finish. This sake is a more in-your-face nama with fuller and rounder flavor. My favorite tonight.

Last but not least, I enjoyed the Wakaebitsu Gizaemon (“Young Smile, Mie Prefecture, SMV +2, Acidity 1.6). This third selection came across as earthy and sharp. On the palate, there were hints of softer fruit… could have been pear & apple as the tasting notes suggested, but quite mild fruits in any case.

Scott’s comment on the Wakaebitsu: Strong Grape Jolly Rancher notes. hmm.

down_for_the_count.jpgThese autumn namas were all really enjoyable. Now, the only issue I can see is that the rest of New York seems to have discovered this place, too, so the waits can be long. Obviously, I think the wait is worth it. Otherwise, just get there well before or after the 8pm rush.

Well, above and beyond everything else, I think the one thing that made me feel like Hagi could be my “Cheers” was seeing the guy who passed out at the bar next to me. Ahhh… welcome home.

Kyotofu_storefront.jpgI first heard of Kyotofu back in October when they provided yummy tofu desserts for a Landmark Sake Seminar. They were a few weeks away from opening at that point, but I made a note to visit when I got the chance.

That chance arrived when I got an email announcing a Sake-Dessert pairing at Kyotofu on Dec 4th. Dessert and sake together – all night? Like a kid in a candy store, this sounded like my absolute dream evening come to life.

Chris_Johnson.jpg On the big night, I was greeted by Nicole, one of the owners – and handed a fruity shochu cocktail. Shochu of course is Sake’s more alcoholic younger brother – and not my favorite guy to have around. These cocktails however were just delicious. a nice light hand with the alcohol and yummy fruit juices.

After our welcome, the main event was about to begin. Anyone who knows me – even a little bit – soon learns of my huge sweet tooth. And I was about to have dessert for dinner! yeah! Asami__and_sister.jpgScott and I had the good fortune of sitting with our favorite friends from World sake Imports: Keiko-san and Asami-san as well as Asami’s sister visiting from Japan.

Chris Johnson, internationally known Sake expert and owner of Bao 111, was the guest lecturer for the evening. He briefly introduced each sake and entertained questions at each table throughout the night. Compared to the speech type sake lecture, this was a much more personable style of talking about sake that I really enjoyed. All the sake came from the Banzai Sake importing company.

Here is a rundown of the sakes featured

  • crazy_milk.jpgSetsugetsu Bijin (Junmai Ginjo, Oimatsu Brewery, ALC 14.5%, Seimaibuai 55%, SMV +3, Oita Prefecture)
    Served with a few small savory items. This was our ‘meal’ before the onslaught of desserts began. Setsugetsu Bijin was served at our November BYOS event and I wasn’t blown away then or now with this sake. It was definitely more earthy and less polished than sakes I’ve had from Niigata for example. The nose had a touch of sweetness and the palate was a bit lifeless. Onward and upward.
  • moon_rabbit.jpgKissui Miyanoyuki (Junmai, Miyanzaki Brewery, ALC 14.5%, Seimaibuai 60%, SMV +2, Mie Prefecture)
    Served with delicious Black sesame Sweet tofu. This sake was served both warm and chilled to compare and contrast the flavors. The chilled version disappeared against the sweet tofu as there wasn’t much contrast. The warmed Junmai fared better and worked well with the sweet background flavor of the wonderful Sesame tofu. I loved this dish so much, I helped both Scott and Asami finish theirs. This would prove to be a mistake.
  • Crazy Milk (Junmai Nigori, ALC 15.5%, Seimaibuai 70%, Oita Prefecture)
    Served with beautiful Chestnut Mochi Chocolate Cake. Crazy Milk is a ‘rough around the edges’ Nigori I first tried in my last visit to Boston. This brew is really best with food, not to drink on it’s own. It is heavy thick and hardcore with some unbalanced aspects and strong heat from a strong alcohol finish. The pairing idea however, was pure genius – with the “milk” and “chocolate cake” mixing well. I helped both Scott and Asami finish their portions… again, I think this was a misstep on my part… I’m starting to feel full…
  • Koten.jpgTsukiusage “Moon Rabbit” (Junmai, ALC 6.5%, Seimaibuai 55%, SMV -30, Nara Prefecture)
    Paired with a wonderful Miso Tofu Cheesecake. This is a well known sparkling sake. It was my favorite of the evening. Sparkling sakes are becoming more and more a favorite of mine. Moon Rabbit had strong citrus on the nose and palate. I smelled very distinct grapefruit aromas in the nose. This picked up on some citrus in the cake. It was sweet, but you can’t beat those tiny bubbles. Sake really is the Swiss Army Knife of booze, don’t you think? It can do just about anything. Now, it was at this point that I “hit the wall” with dessert intake. 2 more courses to go??
  • Koten (Junmai Koshu, ALC 15.5%, Seimaibuai 65%, SMV -5, Saitama Prefecture.)
    Served with Tahitian Vanilla Parfait. This Aged sake is a mix of different vintages – kind of a mutt. The taste is similar to sherry if you enjoy that. The sake was smooth and for me it had a distinct nutty finish. The parfait was delicious, but I only managed a taste since I OD’d on the second and third course.

The final course was a round of Petit Fours which I could only look at — I was down for the count! My eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach tonight, but I did give it the old college try.

The Banzai imported sakes didn’t all hit a home run with me, but there were some nice ones. The Kyotofu desserts were amazing across the board and I think the sesame pudding was the winner for me. Next time you’re near Kyotofu, stop by for some sake and pair it with something sweet. After all, they are a match made in Hell’s Kitchen Heaven.

awning.jpgI always had a feeling that there were japanese bars and restaurants out there that were hidden speakeasy type places that you had to know a friend of a friend to learn the Japanese password and find their secret location.

My recent trip to Tsukushi restaurant (300 East 41st Street; 212-599-8888) hinted at this kind of intrigue and exclusivity, but was easy to find and even had it’s name on the awning. From there, you enter through a nondescript black door, step down some stairs and you land in what looks like… someone’s wood paneled suburban den. for real!

serious_wood_paneling.jpgThe interior is really striking as it is about as far away from “tokyo underground” as you could imagine. The waitresses are friendly and shuttle from bar to table to kitchen and back wearing cute hausfrau aprons.

All the food here is Omakase – Chef Norihiko Manabe’s choice. This meant that the only thing I really had to worry about selecting was the Sake – and that was the real challenge of the evening.

yamadanishiki_glass.jpgI scanned the sake menu and decided to go with the Hakushika Tokubestsu Junmai Yamadanishiki (Tatsuuma-Honke Brewing Co., Ltd., HYOGO Prefecture). “Yamadanishiki” is in itself a type of rice, but not just any rice. It’s regarded as one of the best sake making rices there is. The taste was clear and soft. What I liked about this Yamadanishiki brew was how well it went on it’s own as well as with the food. The sake was served in a sizable tumbler with a hausfrau-ish quilted coaster. It was so enjoyable I ordered another!

Tsukushi was really a fun experience. You have to let yourself go a little and be open to whatever the chef wants to send out, but if you can do that, you’re bound to have a good time. Even though it wasn’t the real Tokyo underground speakeasy I was hoping for, this somewhat hidden gem is a real NYC find.

ginban_banshu.jpgThe first review I read about the new Williamsburg restaurant Zenkichi called it a “funhouse”. I was a little bit puzzled bu this until I went my self and Scott and I were shown to our table.

It seems the designer thought that it would be a good idea in this darkly light space to put a full length floor to ceiling mirror at the end of every hall and around every corner. It made navigating my way to the bathroom after 2+ glasses of sake a bit… challenging.

This is not to say of course, that I didn’t have a good time. Zenkichi really puts the FUN in funhouse. The design of this mirrored space seems to emphasize privacy. All the tables are in there own little room, or walled off from one another. each little cubby also had a bamboo shade that could be rolled down.

ring_my_bell.jpgThe funnest thing was the call button on the table! The hostess who showed us to our table explained that we should push the button whenever we want a waitress to come to our table – she went on to explain that the waitresses didn’t mind because the button played lovely music back in the service area.

Well, faster than you can say arigato, I was pushing that button to order some sake! The sake menu at Zenkichi was concise and interesting, for example: Shimehari Tsuru Jun, Yomeiri Buni, Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai, Suishin, Dassai Nigori, Suigei, Wakatake Daiginjo. Some old friends but several selections that were new to me.

Banshu_bottle.jpgI started with the Ginban Banshu Junmai Daiginjo (SMV +6, ALC 15.5%, Acidity 1.2, Seimaibuai 50%, Toyama Prefecture). I found this selection to be a a little “ricey” for my taste, both in the nose and on the palate. It was however, quite rich in flavor and thick in consistency. Enjoyable but not quite there for me.

The Second Sake I had was Shin Junmai Ginjo (Anyone out there know the Brewery?). The sake menu billed this sake as “Extremely Smooth and Clean; Does not interfere with any dish”. well, that really about sums it up! After an intro like that I really wanted to give this one a try. They were right! It is the Switzerland of sakes. totally neutral and I really, really enjoyed it. Sometimes you just want something smooth and easy and not all up in your face. Shin did this quite well.

The food menu at Zenkichi was small and concise and everything we had to eat was lovely and went well with our sakes. This is the perfect little place to hide away with that special someone for a romantic sake escape, clandestine rendezvous or secret business meeting. Give it a try – And when you toast your first sake, be sure to say “Here’s looking at you!” – changes are you will be.

totto_logo001.jpgI live in the Chelsea area of Manhattan and I really love my neighborhood. I love it so much I live and work here. It’s honestly one of my true luxuries that I can walk just a few blocks to work. I know those 3 blocks between my apartment and my day job very well.

Recently, however, I went for some training that took me out of my cozy little nest. I spent three days 9-to-5-ing in Midtown…Times Square no less! The crush of people and screeching taxis made Chelsea seem like a peaceful hamlet.

azumaichi_bottle.jpgAt the end of my first day of training my brain was fried and I was far from home and starving for some dinner. I felt I really deserved, and needed, a treat to sooth me and make it all better.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks – I was nearby one of my favorite places – Yakitori Totto. I walked over there and arrived just before they opened. I got a spot at the bar for the first seating and soon things started to look a little bit rosier.

Of course, I knew I needed a sake asap! I looked at the menu and decided to try something I’ve never had before. This is a move I call “Japanese Roulette”.

After checking over the sake menu in detail, I went with a glass of Azumaichi Junmai Ginjo ( SMV ±0, Acidity 1.6, Seimaibuai 65%, Saga Prefecture). The best word to describe this taste is “Jammy”. totto_carafe.jpgI didn’t know if I should drink this or spread it on toast. It’s thick and very fruity. The fruitiness comes across mostly on the palate as this ginjo only has a light fragrance. I think I would classify this as a good option when you’re in the mood for a sipping sake that you enjoy without food.

The food I had at Totto was beyond yummy as usual, but these fried and deeply flavored foods were not a dream marriage with the Azumaichi fruit bomb. Too much battling going on for flavor in the mouth. I think this sake would have worked better with a plain chicken yakitori that was simply grilled.

When I finished my secret, solo get-away to Totto, I felt refreshed, full and ready to take on city stress with the best of ’em! Bring it, Midtown!

Aoki_sake_co_ltd.jpgToshi over at innovative Sake Hana (265 E. 78th St. Bet. 2nd & 3rd Ave.) surprised me again with a notice about a “late night” sake tasting. The timing was definitely off-hours being 11pm to 1am but it was a really fun idea! I’ve often been up drinking sake to the wee hours – why not do it on purpose this time!? This particular midnight madness was an exploration of the sakes from Niigata prefecture.

So, I had a little rest after work and then headed over to Sake Hana at 11pm. The tasting was already in full swing! I wasn’t surprised to see KC at the bar already sipping and taking notes. So I sauntered up to the bar and dug right in myself.

Kobaiyashis.jpgI was first formally introduced to sakes from Niigata during the Joy of Sake event when I visited the folks at the Niigata sake importers table. It was there that I met Mr. and Mrs. Kobaiyashi who work on bringing delicious Sakes from Niigata to the U.S. They were on hand again tonight and very gracious about explaining about Niigata sake. This late night event offered me a great opportunity to try some more and learn some more.

Mr. Takafumi Aoki of the Aoki Sake Brewing Company was on hand presenting three sakes produced by his brewery. The first sake I had from Aoki was Kakurei Junmai Ginjo (SMV +2.5 Acidity 1.5). I enjoyed this sake very much. It was a great re-introduction to the Niigata flavors. It struck me as crisp and sharp. I also agreed with the tasting notes provided that this sake offered a hint of mineral on the palate.

kakurei_plum.jpgNext up, Aoki-san poured me Kakurei Daiginjo (SMV +5, Acidity 1.5). I saw a lot of people flocking to this bottle repeatedly, so my expectations were a bit raised. This Daiginjo did not disappoint! It was floral-fruity and soft. The taste just smoothly glides along your palate from start to finish. Just Delicious. This is the kind of sake you would think of when trying to explain to someone how elegant the Niigata sakes can be. Definitely my favorite of the night. Aoki-san was a very enthusiastic Ambassador of Sake from Niigata and tasting this Daiginjo made me enthusiastic, too!

Kakurei Plum Sake was the third sake I tried. Not to be clear, this is not plum wine made directly from plums. This is a plum sake made by soaking plums for three months in Kakurei Junmai Ginjo sake. To me, it tasted similar to plum wine but lighter an cleaner, not sticky sweet. I thought while tasting that this has the sweetness to make a good aperitif sake to start off a meal. Also, this sake as an amazing label design – wacky and totally fun.

kiminoi_yamahai.jpgThe unique Kiminoi “Emperor’s Well” Junmai Ginjo Yamahai (SMV +2, Acidity 1.6) was the next sake up. My first thought when I tried Emperor’s Well was: “You got your Peanutbutter in my Sake!” “No, you got your Sake in my Peanutbutter!” It’s true! To my taste, this Sake had very distinct peanut aromas in the nose and it spread like peanut butter over the palate. The tasting literature provided called this nose like a malted chocolate milk. This is one of those I would Label a “tasting” sake. It’s so unique that you should present it at a tasting to show the extremes to which sake flavors can go, but perhaps not something you would sip on to relax after a long day at the office.

Last Sake I had was Manotsuru “Nature Island” Daiginjo (SMV +5, Acidity 1.1) By the time I got around to trying Nature Island, the sake had warmed to a little closer to room temperature and I got distinct earthy flavors with each sip. Overall it had a very autumnal feel with hits of that wonderful leafy aroma you smell in the fall. I only tasted a bit of fruit at the very beginning of each sip.

Takafumi_Aoki.jpgThey were also serving Karen “Coy” Junmai ( SMV -23, Acidity 2.9) which I did not try. Karen and I have had some run-ins in the past and we’re not really on very good terms right now. Maybe we’ll be talking to each other again someday, but for now, we kept our distance. Karen – if you want to talk, call me.

This late night Niigata rendezvous was a ton of fun. Toshi was an amazing host and always making sure everyone was comfortable and had their glasses filled. The Niigata delegates did a great job in introducing their sake even if the hour was very late and they had been pouring all day long. Staying up late was fun, too… and if there’s any good reason to stay up past your bedtime, a little Niigata Nihonshu may just be it.