Sake 101 for Anime Fans

room_1.jpgI had the distinct pleasure of giving a sake 101 lecture again this year at the New York Anime Festival. Faithful readers of will remember my big adventure last year at this event, where I was totally unprepared for the raucous crowds and energetic anime crowds. Well, all I can say is that this year I am older and wiser about anime!

tim_1.jpgThis year, I knew much better what to expect and even got into the cosplay spirit by wearing a real japanese mens’ kimono for the event. Figuring out men’s kimono was an education in and of itself but well worth the effort! This lecture consisted of my “Sake 101” talk which included sake ingredients, Sake production process and sake classifications. Since there are a lot of visitors from out of town for the anime festival, I also always include my recommendations for where to visit for all things sake in NYC!

This was a fun event! It was really fun to meet all the anime folks interested in Sake and to see all the crazy kids running around! to see more pics, check out the photos on flickr here!

Joy Joy Joy Of Sake 2008

Webster_hall_1.jpgThe annual Joy of Sake event is the mother lode of sake tastings brought right to our backyard. In the span of 3 hours, there is more sake, great food and enthusiastic drinkers than you can shake a stick at. Best of all, there are tons of sakes that are not for sale in the US. If you want to save yourself the round trip airfare, 26 hours cramped in coach, and a week and a half of jet lag – this is really your best bet.

crowd_1.jpgMy recent interview with Joy of Sake Organizer Chris Pearce gave me some new insight into this event, so check it out if you haven’t already. Also of note this year was the new location. Moving from the puck building to Webster Hall was quite a change, but I think a successful one. I started the evening up at the top floor with all the Junmai daiginjo and daiginjo sakes that are not available in the US. I thought that would be a good place to start tasting while my palate was still somewhat fresh. I wasn’t disappointed and tasted some super duper daiginjo-y treats up there. Among some of the luscious sakes I sampled were Gasanryu “Gokugetsu” Junmai Daiginjo (Shindo Shuzoten, Yamagata), Shizukuzake Daiginjo (Sakai Shuzo, Yamaguchi) and Tobindori Daiginjo (Kamisugi Shuzo, Aichi).

kudoki_bottle_1.jpgBack on the ground floor, I was happy to find a new sake that really turned my head. I’m talking about Kudoki Jozu Junmai Daiginjo (Kamenoi Shuzo, Yamagata). This delightful sake has an SMV of ±0 with a milling rate of 48%. Refreshing and elegant yet substantive, this sake was a shimmering delight. I hope they will import it soon here to the US!

Along with all the tasting, there was lots of socializing to be done, too! I ran into friends new and old and future and had a great time talking with everyone and comparing notes on sake reactions. Everyone had a favorite sake – and with hundreds to choose from, everyone could have their own.

This night is always a whirlwind and before I knew it, our three hours were up and the Joy of Sake 2008 was coming to a close. The only comfort that came to mind was that the Joy of Sake will be back next year delivering more fantastic and hard to find sakes right to our doorstep. Now that is a special delivery worth waiting for.

JFC New York Sake Expo ’08

denshin_1_1.jpgJFC is a well known importer of Sake and Japanese food stuffs and I was delighted to recently attend their Fall ’08 New York Sake Expo! As I traveled from table to table at the Expo, I met some very interesting people, and some very interesting sake.

First, I meet Mr. Kakutaro Kubo, Vice President of Ippongi Kubohonten Brewery, makers of Denshin. This sake is known for it’s luminescent packaging and it’s light and refined taste. Among the delicious Denshin options are the Denshin Yuki Junmai Ginjo, Denshin Rin Junmai Daiginjo, Denshin Ine Junmai. The taste on these sakes does indeed come across to me as light in style, which I really enjoy. In addition, people always remark on the Denshin Packaging. The bottle labels are made from rice paper with cut outs for the Kanji letters. When the bottle is held up to the light, the Kanji seems to glow. there is a different bottle color for each grade of sake making them easy to tell apart, and the junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjo grades get a paper wrap and tassel at the cap. beautiful! These gems are hard to miss on the shelf, so check them out if you can!

daishichi_1.jpgNext, I had to distinct honor of talking to the President of the renowned Daishichi Sake Brewery, Mr. Hideharu Ohta. I met Mr Ohta once before, over two years ago at a Daishichi tasting at Sakagura, but this time Ohta-san had a few more sakes in his protfolio and some really interesting sake at that. Daishichi is very well known for being a Kimoto brewery only.

The Big news fro Daishichi was the arrival of some very unique kimoto sakes. The most interesting was their kimoto plum sake. That’s right… A kimoto Plum sake. It’s light and sweet with a touch of cream that just hints at it’s Kimoto origins. Very beautiful right down to the yellow label. I also enjoyed drinking the Daishichi Kimoto Nigori. It was creamy and rich without being too chunky and I found this nigori to have just the right touch of sweetness. Thank goodness Daishichi is so committed to Kimoto… it’s a blast to taste kimoto versions of many popular kinds of sake. Arigato Ohta-san!

cup_sake_1.jpgThe final bit of super exciting sake news was the arrival of Cup Sake! well… it’s not yet actually in New York, but word on the street is that it’s coming! Anyone who knows me knows about my not so secret obsession with cup sake. Ok then JFC… you read it here first! NYC is the perfect market for cup sake, so let’s bring it in! Think big!

These trade events are a lot of fun and I really enjoy getting a chance to meet the folks who make the sake. I hope they enjoy meeting their eager NYC sake bloggers just as much.

Winebow Importers Brings You Sake

ichishima_2.jpgWinebow is a importing company that focuses mostly on bringing great Italian Wines to the U.S. Of late, they have made a move into the world of sake! Currently importing two diverse portfolios, one from Akita and one from Niigata, more sake brought into the States is a win for everyone. I had a chance to taste both portfolios at their September “Vintner’s Harvest” event. Lucky for me, the sake table was right near the entrance. Let’s take a look at their offering…

sake_1.jpgIchishima Brewery from Niigata presented an impressive portfolio of sakes that give new meaning to the idea of “vertical tasting!” From soup to nuts you can try just about every type of sake from this one brewery. It’s a bold and welcome move. Here is a listing of all the sakes Ichishima-san is now importing:

From Ichishima Brewery: Futsu-shu, Honjozo, Junmai, Junmai “silk deluxe”, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Genshu, Daiginjo, Ginjo Koshu, Competition Daiginjo.

Of the above offering a few sakes in particular caught my attention. First, the standard Junmai was a real standout in my opinion. It was a classic junmai with structure and substance yet with a soft hand that is so indicative of Niigata goodness. Also, the Competition Daiginjo was certainly of note. It had all the presence and flourish you would expect from a competition brew. yet, this sake wasn’t overwhelming or too in your face. A great chance to try competition sake, which is often hard to come by. Speaking of hard to come by, Ichishima-san is also importing his brewery’s Futshu-shu. This type of sake is incredibly rare in the states as it is usually considered a ‘non-premium’ sake, but this hearty Ishishima brew makes me dream of pairing combinations with each sip. I know this one will be great with food! oh yeah.

linda_claudioWinebow also imports a range of sakes from Akita Prefecture.

This band of merry sake brewers is known as A.S.P.E.C. (Akita Sake Promotion & Export Council) with Linda Noel Kawabata working as Brand Manager. Our friend and Akita native Chizuko-san was also on hand in beautiful Kimono to help introduce these sakes.

Linda-san introduced me to some wonderful Akita sakes, some that I knew and some I’m having for the first time. Let’s take a look at the ASPEC offering…

Suzuki Shuzoten: Hideyoshi Namacho Honjozo, Hideyoshi Amakarapin Junmai, Hideyoshi Honjozo, Hideyoshi Akinota Junmai Ginjo, Hideyoshi Flying Pegasus Koshu Daiginjo.

Tenju Shuzo: Chokaisan junmai Daiginjo

Hinomaru Jozo: Manabita Kimoto Junmai Ginjo, Manabito Junmai Daiginjo.

Akita Seishu: Desatsuru Kimoto Junmai, Dewatsuru Habataki junmai Ginjo, Dewatsuru Matsukura Tokubetsu Junmai, Dewatsuru Hihaku junmai Daiginjo.

Naba Shoten: Minato “harbor” Tsuchizaki Yamahai Futsu-shu, Minato “harbor” Tuchizaki Yamahai Nama Genshu, Horoyoi Junmai Ginjo

chizuko_1.jpgEasily the Hideyoshi “Flying Pegasus” koshu Daiginjo made one of the biggest impressions. Suzuki Shuzoten brewery only makes about 300 bottles a year, so this is easily what you could call a “limited release”! The presentation of this sake begins with the bottle which is shaped like a simple old fashioned gourd tokkuri, but in this case with a golden sheen. The taste is impactful and precious with a strong nose and off dry palate. a lot to take in… I’d love to take a bottle home some day!

In addition, I loved seeing again the Dewatsuru Hihaku Junmai Dainginjo. This sake is elegant and lightly fruity… so easy to drink and very, very easy to enjoy.  I also enjoyed some sakes that I have had at previous Akita sake Club Events including Chokaisan Junmai Daiginjo and The Manabito Kimoto Junmai Ginjo and the Manabito Junmai Daiginjo, both with a touch of dryness that begs to be used in food pairing. fantastic!

All in all, this Winebow event was fantastic and so encouraging to see traditional wine importers branching out to include some of the world’s best sake in their portfolios! Keep the sakes coming and here is a big old Kanpai to that!

Viva Akita! Viva Genshu!

wild_for_akita_sake.jpgThe Akita Sake Club has come a long way, baby! The most recent event was held again at the Japan American Association offices in Midtown and was the Club’s 6th meeting that celebrates the sake from Japan’s Akita Prefecture.

In addition to the sake, The club also features the food and music of Akita. I’ve read that Akita ranks Highest for per capita sake consumption in Japan…and after this event I can believe it! I had a great time and wanted to share a couple of the real standout sakes that I had.

kariho_daiginjo3.jpgI really enjoyed a fantastic Kariho Daiginjo Genshu This sake was billed as “fragrant and silky” and boy did it deliver. I was really wowed the the ability of this sake to stand out from the crowd without shouting. I think I can best describe it as an elegant richness. very nice! Rice Polished down to 35% of it’s original size. this adds tremendously to it’s smooth as silk allure!

dewatsuru_daiginjo2.jpgNext I found myself drawn to another Daiginjo Genshu (anyone seeing a trend here??). I’m talking about Dewatsuru Daiginjo Genshu. This sake was another winner. I found the taste to have something scrumptious about it. I can’t really put my finger on it, but something in this sake compelled my arm, almost involuntarily, to raise the sake cup to my mouth… repeatedly. Seriously, this sake was just delicious, complex and commanding. I’m crushing on this brew big time!

Next I caught up with my friend Linda Kawabata who is helping introduce a new line of Akita sakes to the world. She started off by my introducing me to Mr. Sato, President of Hinomaru Brewery. Sato-san let me taste two of his sakes coming to the US this fall. They are are Manabito Kimoto Junmai Ginjo and the Manabito Junmai Daiginjo. Linda pointed out that both of these sakes spend time being aged in the bottle before shipping. Once opened, they both blossom when they get a chance to breath. I love sakes that expand like this. they give you a chance to enjoy the changing aspects of a sake over the course of an evening.

manabito.jpgManabito Kimoto Junmai Ginjo was a lovely kimoto sake coming across to me as softer and smoother than most Kimono i’ve tried. I think that is due to the fact that this was a Junmai ginjo grade and not just a junmai. This is one of those sakes you just want to pair with food! I would guess this sake is a fantastic pair with all the hearty foods of the Akita region. yum! Manabito Junmai Daiginjo also had a wonderfully soft touch! smooth and very drinkable. I really enjoyed this junmai daiginjo.

Last but not least, I headed over to the Joto Selections and tried Kacho Gesseki Junmai Daiginjo Genshu. OK, now there is definitely a trend!! This was another wonderful sake from Akita! The aromas on this sake were fantastic and bold. You pick up lost of tropical fruit on the palate. This sake is bold and full of melt in your mouth flavors. fantastic!

Well, another successful evening with the cool cats from the Akita Sake Club. I don’t know what was drawing me to all those daiginjo Genshus! whatever it was I was bowled over. I hope the drinking we did this night gets added to the per capita consumption stats of Akita Prefecture. They’ll be number one for a while. Kanpai!

Interview: Chris Pearce and the Joy of Sake

jos.jpgThe annual Joy of Sake tasting event is considered the “not to be missed” sake event of the year. Luckily, there is still time to get a ticket for this veritable sake-palooza, which is happening this year in New York on Sept 25th. I’ve enthusiastically attended the Joy of Sake for the last few years, but I knew little about how this mammoth sake event came into being. I caught up with Joy of Sake founder Chris Pearce to find out more…

Q: Chris, how did you get involved in the sake world?

Chris Pearce: I met Takao Nihei, the brewmaster of the Honolulu Sake Brewery, in 1982. He was a product of the heyday of Japanese brewing research in the 1950s and was one of the great brewers of his day. His most famous accomplishment was the discovery in Honolulu of “awanashi kobo,” a non-frothing yeast that enabled brewers to greatly increase the amount of sake they could make in a given vat. He took pity on the small group of sake enthusiasts in Hawaii who started the International Sake Association in 1986 and acted as their mentor until he passed away in 1994.

2.jpgQ: What is the “Joy of Sake”?

Chris Pearce: The Joy of Sake is often referred to as “the largest sake tasting outside Japan.” It is based on the “ippan kokai” or public tasting event that follows the Japan National Sake Appraisal every year. In the case of the U.S., The Joy of Sake follows the U.S. National Sake Appraisal, which was held in Honolulu on August 26-27. This year 327 entries were submitted, and these are the sakes that can be tasted at
The Joy of Sake this week in New York. The entries were all submitted in peak condition, and as a result the quality is impeccable. And to make the event more fun, as sake-sipping certainly should be, thirteen of New York’s top restaurants prepare complementary sake appetizers. It’s an educational sake event on one level, but on another it’s one of New York’s best parties of the year.

Q: How did the Joy of Sake Event come into being?

Chris Pearce: It started in 2001, when the first event was held in Honolulu. At that time, ginjo and daiginjo sakes were just beginning to become available, and interest in sake was picking up. But there were no accepted criteria on what a good sake should taste like. Various commentators, often inexperienced, expressed their subjective opinions, which were then taken up by the media. The members of the International Sake Association felt that there should be a serious assessment of sakes available in the U.S. by qualified judges, based on criteria that were developed in Japan over the last 100 years. And since the International Sake Association had a lot of experience throwing parties, the idea from the start was to make The Joy of Sake a fun event by bringing in food and entertainment.

3.jpgQ: Any recommendations for the first time visitor to the Joy of Sake?

Chris Pearce: It can be overwhelming the first time. No one can taste all of the sakes, so I’d suggest that people spent no more than ten minutes at one table before heading over to another. There are sections for Daigianjo A (polishing ratio 40% or less), Daiginjo B (polishing ratio 50% or less), Ginjo, Junmai and Kimoto. This year we’ve made a big effort to enlist the help of experienced sake servers in New York. Around thirty of them will be stationed at the tasting tables to answer questions. And there will be roving “sake guides” to share information and steer people into interesting areas. The event is at Webster Hall, and there are three different environments to explore on the three floors.

Q: An event of this size must be a lot to manage! How do you select the sakes that are served?

Chris Pearce: There is no selection involved. All of the sakes were submitted as entries to the 2008 U.S. National Sake Appraisal. All we do is keep them under refrigeration from the time they leave Japan until the time they are delivered to Webster Hall.

1.jpgQ: I’ve noticed several sakes served at the Joy of Sake are designated as gold and sliver award winners. What is the connection of the US National Sake Appraisal and the Joy of Sake?

Chris Pearce: As I mentioned earlier, The Joy of Sake is the public tasting event for the U.S. National Sake Appraisal. Why should the ten judges be the only ones to taste these wonderful sakes? The Joy of Sake gives enthusiasts in New York, Honolulu and San Francisco a chance to spend three delightful hours in their company.

Q: Any new developments for this year’s event? Where can readers learn more and get a ticket for the event?

Chris Pearce: You can get tickets at Sakagura, Sakaya, Union Square Wine and Spirits and several other places around town. But most people buy them on-line at or call the Sake Hotline number at 888-799-7242. The Joy of Sake is different every year. The venue at Webster Hall is amazing. This is the fifth year for The Joy of Sake in New York City and we think this will be the best event yet.


Wow, thanks Chris! I know you’re incredibly busy with all the details and logistics for this years Joy of Sake tasting, so I really appreciate you taking the time for an Urban Sake interview. I’m so happy to learn more about how this great event come into being. See you at the Joy of Sake! Kanpai!

Event Details:
Joy of Sake New York
Sept 25th, 6-9pm
Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
$80 per person

Joy of Sake San Francisco
Oct 23rd, 6-8:30pm
The Galleria Design Center
101 Henry Adams Street
$75 per person

NYC: Sakagura Akita Sake Tasting Party

sakagura.jpgSAKAGURA and ASPEC present “Gifted Akita Sake Tasting Party”! On Wednesday, September 24th, SAKAGURA will play proud host to Five of the most distinguished breweries, ASPEC, is yet to be introduced to the U.S. Market from Akita, Japan. ASPEC has decided to expand its business overseas, America this year. So, we cordially welcome and invite you to much-anticipated Akita Sake Tasting Party at Sakagura!

The eighteen sakes that have been carefully selected for this event. In addition, in a joint effort with executive chef, Akinobu Suzuki, authentic Akita’s specialties will be featured for paring with sakes.

We hope you will join us in tasting some of the best Akita sake and enjoying the beautiful season, Autumn!

Participating breweries:

Date: Wednesday, September 24th

Time: 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Admission: $60 (excluding tax and gratuity)

RSVP time: Monday, 15th to Tuesday, 23rd of September
Mon-Fri 3:00PM to 7:00PM
Sat-Sun 5:30PM to 7:30PM

RSVP hotline: 212-953-SAKE (7253)
*We don’t accept the RSVPs via email or fax.

30 seats are limited. Prompt RSVPs are recommended. A credit card number is needed to process the RSVP.
*We have 24-hour cancellation policy.

211 EAST 43rd Street B1F
New York, NY 10017
212-953-SAKE (7253)

NYC: Meet the Brewer’s Tasting at Tailor

With The Joy of Sake coming up next Thursday, a number of other sake events have been scheduled around the city. Here’s one that provides a chance to meet four visiting brewers and sample their delicious sakes.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008
5:30–7:30 pm
$30 per person (excluding tip & tax)
RSVP: [email protected]
or call (212) 334-5182

Held at Tailor
525 Broome Street
(between Thompson Street & 6th Avenue)

San Francisco: Sake Day 2008

sakeday.jpgBe a part of history on Wednesday October 1st at Ft. Mason’s “Golden Gate Room” when the world stops for a day – and sake lives for a night! Nihonshu no Hi is the day of sake in Japan every October 1st and partners True Sake, Mari’s Catering and Sozai Restaurant honor this great occasion by throwing the definitive sake-centric party in San Francisco.

When: Oct 1st from 6-9PM Click Here to Purchase Tickets

Where: Ft. Mason (Golden Gate Room) San Francisco

What: Complimentary sake glass, 5 Cuisine and sake paired dishes, 5 unique tasting stations, multiple vendor sake stations, welcome cask sake, live Okinawa band, and many raffles and give-away’s!

How Much: $85/sake reveler. Ticket purchase information below. Note: at the door, tickets will be cash only.

Why: If you love sake and learning more about this libation this day is your event!

Who: The good people at True Sake “America’s First Sake Store” and Mari’s Catering/Sozai Restaurant.

Tickets may be purchased on-line here or at the True Sake store and at Sozai Restaurant. Tickets will be cash only at the door.

Sake Day is the definitive sake exploration and tasting event in the Bay Area and is hosted by folks who know sake best! Think part sake Oktoberfest, part sake science, part sake appreciation, part sake exploration, part sake education and all sake enthusiasm. This event is a sake carnival of sorts where drinkers leave with as much knowledge in their heads as sake in their bellies!

If you know sake then you know that Sake Day is the best resource for not only tasting sake, but learning more about what you are drinking! If you are new to sake then this event represents a colorful and entertaining party that speaks the language of sake in its most basic sense – enjoyment!

The unique sake exploration stations range from a “Blind Tasting Station” with 8 sakes with two sakes being the same – can you pick the same sakes? – to a “Vertical Sake Tasting Station” with a Junmai, Ginjo and Dai Ginjo sake from the same brewery. Also try the “Find the Nigori Station” where we pour three of the same sakes, Junmai, Nama Junmai and Junmai Nigori to see if you can blindly identify the Nigori – sounds easy right? This station had a 30% correct rate at the Second Annual Sake Day celebration – harder than it sounds! And of course we will have the “Damaged Sake” station to show the durability and resilience of sake under duress. Plus much much more!

NYC: Bacchus Sake and Sushi Event

bacchus.jpgSake and Sushi!

So we all know that sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from rice, but have you ever wanted to know more? Unanswered questions like “when should sake be served cold?” and “how can I decipher all the different varieties?”, can be answered! Just like it takes a special kind of grape to make an excellent wine, producing great Sake requires a special kind of rice. Enjoy and learn about an assortment of different sakes with knowledgeable teachers. Fun for the sake novice and connoisseur alike! Guests will also be able to sample a wonderful spread of fresh sushi, sakes most trusted food pairing.

Tuesday September 23
7:00 – 8:30

$35 (plus tax)

Each participant will receive a beautiful Riedel Crystal glass from which to taste and take home at the end of the evening.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 212.875.1200
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Thursday 11:00 am – 09:00 pm
Friday – Saturday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm – 09:00 pm
Bacchus Wines is located at:

2056 broadway

New York, NY 10023

NYC: Elements of Sake Class Level II

tim_photo.jpgPlease join me!! I am teaching an advanced sake class at the new Astor center called the “Elements of Sake, Part II.”

The perfect follow-up to The Elements of Saké or an ideal choice for any saké enthusiast eager to broaden their horizons! In Part II, we’ll deepen our exploration into this ancient brew. We will discover the wild side of saké by tasting bold Kimoto and Yamahai styles (made using yeast starters), as well as some sweet and delightful Sparkling sakés, and rich and decadent aged sakés. Furthermore, we’ll begin to explore the theories behind sake and food pairings by sampling some dishes made specifically to compliment our saké. Join us for an in depth look at Nihonshu to take your understanding of saké to the next level.

This class takes place at Astor Center. Tickets required. Cost $95

Please visit the website to Register for this class

399 Lafayette St. NY, NY 10003 (At East 4th Street) PHONE: (212) 674-7501

NYC: Elements of Sake Class

tim_photo.jpgPlease join me!! I am teaching a sake 101 class at the new Astor center called the “Elements of Sake.” This class is a fun, informative and tasty way to dive into the world of premium saké. We’ll walk you through every step of the saké production process to show you how master brewers go from rice and water to what the Japanese call “the drink of the gods.” Next, we’ll demystify the various saké classifications to help you find the brews that fit your taste and your budget. Finally, we’d never leave out the delicious saké tastings that will help you evaluate and enjoy the ever-increasing variety of sakés that are becoming available. Kanpai!

This class takes place at Astor Center. Tickets required. Cost $65

Please visit the website to Register for this class

399 Lafayette St. NY, NY 10003 (At East 4th Street) PHONE: (212) 674-7501

NYC: Masumi Arabashiri Tasting at Sakaya


Masumi Arabashiri Nama tasting at Sakaya. don’t miss it!

SAKAYA : 324 E. 9th Street (Between 1st & 2nd Ave.)
New York, NY 10003
212.505.SAKE (7253)

NYC: Kagatobi Sake Tasting at Sakaya


Kabatobi Sake Tasting at Sakaya!

SAKAYA : 324 E. 9th Street (Between 1st & 2nd Ave.)
New York, NY 10003
212.505.SAKE (7253)

NYC: Sakaya Chiyomusubi Sake Tasting


Chiyomusubi Sake Tasting at Sakaya!

SAKAYA : 324 E. 9th Street (Between 1st & 2nd Ave.)
New York, NY 10003
212.505.SAKE (7253)