AMERICA'S FIRST SAKE STORE We Deliver! (415) 355-9555  

Go to Newsletter Archive   Subscribe to Newsletter

February 2006

True Sake
premier merchants of fine sake

Welcome to the February Issue of America's sake-centric newsletter. Let's face it, most alcohols are romantic come February! But sake takes good clean lovin' to a new level. And the best part of making sake part of your romantic adventures on V-Day is that February 15th won't represent the first hours of the worst hangover of your life. Also in this issue learn about three amazing sakes that I could have sworn would NEVER have come to our shores but they have... oh my! Check out the surprising, and yet not surprising at all, results of a recent restaurant survey featuring sake. And shamelessly I must tell all that my book "Sake-The Modern Guide" (Chronicle Books) is now available for pre-ordering at Enjoy these gray days and celebrate the chill of February.

In this issue:

Is Sake an Aphrodisiac? - The Top Ten List of Sake On Valentine's Day

True Sake After countless hours of in-depth research I have finally concluded that sake is an aphrodisiac in every sense of the word. What? Come on how in the world did you ever come to that conclusion? It's true and the facts speak for themselves. Well actually in this case the facts are just a fact (singular). And to be more precise my "countless hours" of research were in fact a ten-minute conversation with a guy who knew a guy. But hey that's scientific enough these days by modern polling and research standards right?

Okay okay! It's not as bad as it sounds, because the first "guy" just so happens to be Izumihiko Masuda the 12th generation owner of Tsukinokatsura brewery in Fushimi just outside of Kyoto proper. He owns a brilliant kura (brewery) as well as the best moustache in the sake brewing world. Now the other "guy" happened to be an 80 year-old friend of Masuda-san's father who is very close with the kura, but never drank their sake. One day he visited the brewery and took home a bottle of Nigori sake, which this brewery is famous for. (In fact they re-engineered the modern nigori movement 41 years ago that made nigori sake legal again.) The day after the surprising visit Mr. Masuda's phone rang and it was the older gentleman on the other end. The first words out of his mouth were "thank you." The third through eighteenth words out of his mouth were "thank you." Confused Masuda-san said "you're welcome but why are you thanking me?" To which the older gentleman in a hushed voice said that he had not made love to his wife in 21 years. But that had changed the night before when "some magic" made him want to "dance." I concluded it was the sake!

And that in a nutshell is proof positive that sake is an aphrodisiac. Who needs more concrete evidence than that? (Actually I do have a collaborating voice in my older brother who swears that sake is indeed a gifted beverage!) The bottom line is that there is some magic in sake. Like all boozes it thins the blood and causes a touch of euphoria, but there is more. There is a secret layer of "feel good" that no other libation can quite obtain. The trick is to get to the "feel good" level with a person who really floats your boat.

In a word sake is exotic. And exotic is almost spelled the same way as erotic. Proof again that sake is a libation to be reckoned with on V- day. But you still need more? Well have you ever heard of a Geisha? Hmmmmm What beverages are the Geisha's known for pouring? Now we are getting closer. We are closing in on the precise reason that sake is liquid love. Should we review? An 80 year-old-man, my older brother, euphoria, Geishas, do you need any more than that? Hmmmmm? Let's not touch on the simplicity of inhibitions or the lack thereof. Let's also not go on about the whole Time, Place and Occasion of the Day of "Hallmark" Love. Rather let's focus on the ability of a fermented rice beverage to create the perfect storm of chemical reactions in your brain and heart to throw out the "animal signal," "the mating call," or "the call to lust." In plain English "Sake Works." Who cares why? It is an aphrodisiac until proven otherwise.

Herewith is a TOP TEN List of the Do's and Don'ts when combining Cupid and a Cup of beautiful sake:

  1. If you will be "Hot Tubing" on V-Day make certain to serve a sake that is best consumed at room temperature. Why? Cold sakes make your body work harder in heat and can be funny on the tummy, and hot sakes will make you too hot in the soup.

  2. If you plan to take sake to bed, don't worry man! It's not red wine and won't stain the bedding if things get kicking and screaming (did I just type that?)!

  3. If you plan to serve Champagne or Sparkling wine DON'T. These have sulfites added, whereas Sparkling Sake has been "slightly pasteurized" and is a cleaner buzz!

  4. Body shot? That is so old school. Why not try the old "Lover's Chair"? Take your lover, remove her clothes, sit her very erect (no leaning back) in a chair and make her put her legs tightly together. Ahh and here is the fun yet tricky part. Hand your lover a glass of cool sake (cold enough to make goose bumps) and have her pour it down her neck between her ummmm breasts (does my mom read this Newsletter?) and watch as it races down her body, to her tightly closed knees, where the recipient shall drink from her kneecaps, which should be touching. This is called something else other than Lover's Chair, but I must first get a cable show before I say the real name. (Also for the guys detours often happen so improvise!)

  5. Giving chocolate this V-day again? BORING! Why not mix it up by giving your valentine your favorite chocolate and a killer bottle of desert sake called Kijoshu. This 8-year aged sweet sake was made for chocolate and they go together like Donnie and Marie (does that sound incestuous?). Okay then they go together like France and cigarettes, fish and chips, Emelda Marcos and shoes etc. Point being the deep richness of this sweet sake works so well with anything chocolaty. It has the color and feel of a Port and hints of Sherry-like qualities. Amazing and so unique!

  6. Beer is great. No questions. But when was the last time you drank a sixer and then started making out. You probably A) smelled like a brewery B) burped like a sailor and C) felt bloated like a traveling-for-2-weeks-piece of luggage. So don't even go there. Forget the brewski on the 14th and stick to the cleanest burning fuel that doesn't bog ya down, blow you up, or stink ya all over. Sake is recommended by 9 out 10 doctors for "making out," and is covered by most insurance carriers. Be smart. Be Sake.

  7. If you are officially proposing to you lover on Valentine's Day, don't put the ring in the bottom of her wine glass. Do you how many times the gal has swallowed the ring? Countless times. This would be worse if you hid the ring in the bottom of cloudy/milky sake known as Nigori Sake. Bad idea! But, and this if for the very desperate, if you were intending to propose and forgot the ring (or lost it you idiot) then try this fail-safe impromptu engagement secret. When you twist off the cap of unopened sake a perforated separate piece of metal comes off. This little round piece of metal, which is usually gold or silver, looks just like a.... you know.... a ring! Tadah the perfect "he was so cute putting this little sake ring on my finger" moment. Guys you can thank me later!

  8. How do you know when things at dinner are starting to turn for the better? You look at your date on V-Day and notice that she is starting to flush a little. Man! You think. She is really starting to get hot for me. WRONG! The real reason your date is starting to turn the color of the fake red heart on the V-Day card that you gave her an hour before is that the histamines in her red wine are kicking in. Her face and body are having a reaction to the surge in histamines often found in big red wines. So before you yell "Check Please" think about pouring sake instead of the Red Death that could get you in a ton of "presumptuous" trouble.

  9. Of course wines and beers have some great names that do so well on Valentine's Day but they can never compare to the names of sakes. For example how about pouring a bottle of "Drunken Heart" or "Dreamy Clouds"? Not bad heh? How about whipping out a bottle of "Venerable Virgin" or "Beautiful Boy"? There is always "Midnight Moon" or "Star-Filled Sky." Perhaps you would prefer "Root of Innocence" "Southern Beauty" "Mirror of Truth" "Fair Maiden" or "Heaven of Tipsy Delight." Point being if you are feeling strong enough pour a bottle of "Man's Mountain" and let nature take its course.

  10. This Valentine's Day take a "Sake Bath." First get an "Ishobin" (1.8L) bottle of sake, drink a large portion for dinner then take the rest to your bath. Run some hot water and then place your lover sitting in the tub. Take the remains of the bottle and pour it on her/his head and then have them do the same to you. And then wait for the steam and heat to kick in. Oh so steamy!

Back to top

National Restaurant Survey - Sake Sales Are Booming

JETRO (The Japanese External Trade Organization) recently conducted a restaurant survey on alcoholic beverages highlighting the increased popularity of sake. The survey was conducted in August 2005 and the sample included 34 restaurants in LA, 3 in LV, 31 in NY/NJ, 19 in SF and 12 in Chicago. The findings were recently published in the January Issue of Japanese Food Trade News, and I will provide in bullet form some very interesting results. Truthfully some of the questions were asked in a weird way and there was indeed an emphasis on higher end restaurants featuring more premium sakes.

  • When asked what percentage of sales were made up by alcoholic beverages more than half (54%) of the respondents selected between 21-30%. The respondents who selected 31-40% (15%) and 41% and up (5%) were restaurants that best can be called Izakaya-type places frequented by Japanese customers.

  • When asked how many customers out of ten order alcoholic beverages the average was 6.7! Thus almost 7 people out of 10 order booze!

  • When asked what form of alcoholic beverage were ordered out of every ten customers the results went like this: 1-2 people ordered sake 27% of the time, beer 13%, shochu 33% and others 28%. 3-4 people ordered sake 57% of the time, beer 43%, shochu 51% and others 57%. 5-6 people ordered sake 15% of the time, beer 35%, shochu 11%, and others 14%

  • When asked out of ten customers who order sake if they order hot versus cold the survey, which asked the question as if the table had 10 customers, found that everybody ordered hot sake 3.2% of the time as opposed to 7.4% in 2000 and 16.2% in 1997. (This reads sort of weird but bear with it), the next line said Hot 8- 9, Cold 1-2 meaning 8-2 or 9-1 hot versus cold 13.7% of the time as opposed to 61.7% in 2000 and a whopping 49.6% in 1997. Hot 6- 7, Cold 3-4 15.8% of the time versus 21.0% in 2000 and 17.7% in 1997. Hot, Cold 50-50% of the time was 20% of the time versus 2.5% in 2000 and 16.5% in 1997. Cold 6-7, Hot 3-4 was 25.3% of the time versus 4.9% in 2000 and not recorded in 1997. Cold 8-9, Hot 1-2 was 18.9% of the time versus 2.5% in 2000. And everybody ordered cold sake 3.2% of the time. (sorry that reads so wacky!) The bottom line is that 66% of the restaurants in 1997 and 69% in 2000 reported that more than 8 customers out of 10 ordered hot sake and that figure decreased sharply in 2005 to 16.9%. And likewise only 7.4% of the restaurants reported that in 2000 more than 6 out of 10 ordered cold sake versus 2005 where this figure increased to 47.4%. Those are massive swings!

  • In terms of "House" sakes, which means locally made sake mostly used for heating the order went like this: #1 Sho Chiku Bai, #2 Ozeki, #3 Gekkeikan, #4 Yaegaki. (Typically restaurants make 90% gross profit on their house sake.)

  • The survey asked restaurants to choose up to three sake brands which they sell most and are imported: #1 Otokoyama, #2 Kurosawa, #3 Kubota, #4 Wakatake Onikoroshi, #5 Gekkeikan Horrin, #6 Harushika, #7 Hakkaisan.

  • The strange but good news is that there has been a perception that only Jizake or small local microbreweries were doing well here in the US, but that is not the entire story. The major breweries are also doing very well. High tides raise all ships. This is great news especially for Japan where these large-scale breweries have been taking a pounding.

This is all pretty amazing news! More people drinking cold sake is obvious, but please remember hot sake is not wrong, rather drinking bad hot sake is wrong. And the fact that larger breweries are also shooting the lights out makes me incredibly proud as I have had many conversations with the heads of some of the largest breweries stating my goals and intentions of making sake so popular in the West that demand will increase back in Japan. We are half way there! Thank you sake drinkers for these incredible numbers!

Back to top

True Sake In The News: Wine & Spirits and Beau's New Book

If you have a chance to pick up the February Issue of Wine & Spirits by all means do so, as it has a very nice article about Namazake (unpasteurized sakes). There are several creative reviews and of course yours truly gets in on the action. Best of all True Sake sells each and every Nama that gets addressed.

Sake - The Modern Guide And yes again it is time to alert you fine sake drinkers to a book that I penned for Chronicle Books called "Sake - The Modern Guide." The book will be released in early March, but you may pre-order at to ensure the fastest delivery. I will include the link here for you to obtain a terrific read about sake from our perspective, yours and mine!

Sake - The Modern Guide

Back to top

New Store Arrivals - Black Dragon and Welcome Back Spring Namas!

Firstly the "Spring Namas" are back. These unpasteurized sakes were a huge hit last season and once again they do not fail to disappoint. The good news is that we will hit with two "flights" of Namas this season as opposed to last. This means we are privy to three great sakes now and then in the next month or so four different Namas will be available. So by all means get them while you can. The first shipment of Special Spring Released Namas is made up of:

  • Koshinohomare "Shiboritate"
    Junmai Nama Genshu.
    Niigata Prefecture.
    SMV: +5 and Acidity: 1.75

    This is fat, full-bodied and clean. It is a Genshu, which means that it has not been diluted and carries a higher alcohol content. It is a great sake for sushi.

  • Kamikokoro "Tokagen" Tokubetsu
    Junmai Nama Genshu.
    Okayama Prefecture.
    SMV: -11.5 and Acidity: 1.4

    This sake is huge in flavor with tones that are soft and sweet. And guess what? It is made with peach yeast! How cool is that? This sake speaks to foodies and those who love to unravel flavor.

  • Harushika "Nama"
    Junmai Ginjo Nama.
    Nara Prefecture.
    SMV: +5 and Acidity of 1.4

    This Nama is one of the most popular unpasteurized sakes in Japan. Balanced and so well structured with hints of kiwi, green grasses and apple. It is light, clean and very elegant for a raw beast.

Well it must be a cold day in hell right now, because I said hell would freeze over before the brewery known as Kokuryu (Black Dragon) from Fukui Prefecture would ever offer their sakes in the US. I was wrong and that is all right! This powerhouse brewery makes some incredibly desirable sakes, and the good people at World Sake Imports have what it takes to represent this kura in the US. It is indeed an honor and a privilege to offer these sakes to our customers. Known across Japan as a "can never find a bottle" of this hyper-popular sake look no further than the refrigerators in True Sake. You people are indeed blessed, as it took me three years of trying before I ever tasted my first Black Dragon!
  • Kokuryu "Black Dragon"
    Junmai Ginjo.
    Fukui Prefecture.
    SMV: +3 and Acidity: 1.4

    A gentle nose filled with hints of roasted coffee, mint, grapes and honey. This extremely well balanced sake achieves the near impossible of being both expansive in character and clean in feeling. Very popular in Japan! $30/720ml

  • Kokuryu Tokusen "Specially Selected"
    Fukui Prefecture.
    SMV: +4 and Acidity: 1.3

    A delightful nose filled with blackberries, pineapple, purple grapes and Red Vines. Another extremely well balanced sake with hints of light honey and tea flavors. A unique dryness emerges with each sip and the overall feeling is a slide of gentle flavors. $34/720ml

  • Kokuryu "Ryu" "Dragon"
    Dai Ginjo.
    Fukui Prefecture.
    SMV: +4 and Acidity: 1.2

    The nose is filled with pineapple, koji rice, taffy, and white flower blossoms. The prototypical Dai Ginjo experience with a flavor that is there and then gone. Clean and superb with layers of complexity hidden in a velvety rush. Look for flinty tones dancing with mild fruit complexities and a dry finish. With "The Most" amazing label in the sake world! $80/720ml

You can review many of our sakes on our web site:

Back to top

Special Events

February 21st - The "Funky" Sake Tasting.

bottle At long last it is time to give them what they want! Time and time again we have been asked to put together a tasting that explores the "realms" or better yet the "outer realms" of sake. This sake tasting is for those who want to see how weird and glorious sake gets! From aged dessert sakes to gold flake sake we will be delving into the sake bizarre. It would be better to have a basic understanding of sake (but not necessary) if you decide to attend. Consider this a Blue Circle sake tasting in ski resort terminology.

  • Date: 2/21 Tuesday
  • Time: 6:15 arrival, 6:30--7:30 tasting
  • Place: Kiji at 1009 Guerrero street between 22nd and 23rd street
    Look for a red lantern on the east side of the street
    Public parking at Valencia between 21st and 22nd
  • What: Several funky sake and sake snacks
  • Seats: Limited to 18 people
  • Level: Intermediate or Blue Circle Sake Drinkers!
  • Cost: $40
Of course as with all True Sake events this quick-hit tasting will sell out rather quickly, so if you are in the mood to get "funky" then get on the phone and reserve your seat ASAP. Please call 415.355.9555 (Since there is only a limited amount of seats, no parties of over 4 people please!) (We will try to keep this tasting to an hour!)

Back to top

"Ask Beau"

Beau Timken Since it is quite cold out this question from David G. of Trenton, NJ seemed very appropriate. David asked:

    "Why do they brew sake in the winter?"
The short answer is because they had nothing else to do! The long answer is that historically those who brewed sake in the winter were farmers in the summer. When the crop is harvested and the snow begins to fall, what else is there to do? These farmers would come from around the country to the breweries to help transform rice into sake, and they did so for generations! As such the work force to make sake presented itself in the winter, but that is not the only reason for making nihonshu (sake) in the coldest months.

Look up there! Now over there. Look under the table. Look on top of the door! Naturally occurring yeasts are everywhere. When one makes sake a considerable effort goes into getting the conditions right. To some this is 90% of the game! Yeast is a good thing if it is controlled, but natural airborne yeasts can play havoc on a vat of steaming sugars! Thus the freezing conditions of winter provided the perfect environment to cut down on those pesky airborne yeasts, which do not like cold weather.

Lastly, when one ferments one creates a great deal of heat! The production of sake is a wild and dangerous dance of getting temperatures correct. It is a never ending cycle! When things get too hot yeasts die, or conversely when things get to cold molds won't grow. And both yeast and mold are needed to make sake. The winter air makes a perfect natural air-conditioning system when dealing with the heat of fermentation. Crack a window and save a batch of sake!

People often refer to winter as death. The season of death. But for me winter is really the season of life as new sake is being born.

Please send your sake specific questions to askbeau2 @ (This address is not for general questions and I only review the questions once per month. All correspondence should use info @

Back to top

Secret Word

True Sake Ah, at last we have reached the end of this Newsletter and that of course means that we have come to the now-famous SECRET WORD. For those that are new the SECRET WORD is a chance for you to try a sake of note for half of that sake's original price. Just for reading this Newsletter. It is our way of saying thank you for trying to understand the wonders of sake. And in this regard we typically select a sake with a story, and this month's story is "Big Mountain." We have selected our first Nigori to offer you good readers, and we have done so for good reason. Typically Nigori tends to be fluffy and sweet, but Ohyama from Yamagata Prefecture makes an unfiltered sake that drinks incredibly dry.

Please remember the rules: only one bottle per reader, and don't tell your buddy at the moment if he/she isn't a Newsletter subscriber, always use a hushed or secret agent voice when saying the SECRET WORD, and lastly for those who have their sakes shipped I can only include the SECRET WORD sake in a four-pack purchase - meaning you must buy three other sakes. Ohyama Nigori usually sells for $16/500ml but for you glorious sake-jockeys your cost is $8. And the SECRET WORD is Foggy-Sake.

Back to top

Thank you for reading!

True Sake

Consider this...

Have you ever looked at milled rice? The white almost opaque circular portion that exists in the center of the milled grain is called Shinpaku. Rice that contains lots of Shinpaku is the best for brewing Ginjo-grade sake.


560 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94102


info @

True Sake

TRUE SAKE: America's First Sake Store.

Email Marketing assistance by DialogWorks
Copyright 2006 TrueSake
TasteMatch TM is a registered trademark of TrueSake

Copyright © 2004 - 2014 TrueSake
TasteMatchTM is a registered trademark of TrueSake

Go to Newsletter Archive   Subscribe to Newsletter