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 Amazon.com. 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
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:
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.
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?)!
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!
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!)
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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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.
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!
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
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.
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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.
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
Amazon.com 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
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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:
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!
Junmai Nama Genshu.
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.
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.
Junmai Ginjo Nama.
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
You can review many of our sakes on our web site:
Kokuryu "Black Dragon"
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"
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
Kokuryu "Ryu" "Dragon"
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
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February 21st - The "Funky" Sake Tasting.
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.
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!)
6:15 arrival, 6:30--7:30 tasting
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
Several funky sake and sake snacks
Limited to 18 people
Intermediate or Blue Circle Sake Drinkers!
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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 @ truesake.com. (This
address is not for general questions and I only review the questions
once per month. All correspondence should use
info @ truesake.com.)
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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
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
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Thank you for reading!