Sake Pet - How Does That Fruit Fly Always Find My Sake?
Some 15 years later fruit flies came back into my life in the form of quarantine stations set up in California on major freeways. The Feds had set up checkpoints to determine if vehicles passing from one state to another were unknowingly transporting fruit flies. "See," I said to myself "fruit flies must be important enough that we have to check for them, so they must do something." As I drove through the checkpoint I just knew that someday I would know the true purpose for fruit flies.
Fast-forward 15 more years when I started dabbling with sake.
When I first opened the store I did sake tastings every night. I tasted roughly three to five different brews using two to three glasses for each sake. My learning curve was huge. I needed to write reviews for each sake in the store so that I could speak in-depth about them to customers when they asked, "What's this sake taste like?" The point being is that I would routinely have nine to twelve semi-filled glasses of sake on a table most nights. And that is when I noticed it. They essentially came from nowhere. We simply didn't have fruit flies in the house and yet I started noticing that at each tasting one random fruit fly would appear. Rare was the day when two fruit flies would appear. Just one.
They came to be expected, and quite frankly they came quickly! I'd taste one or two sakes and viola came the slow moving, circling, bobbing, and silent little beasts. I would write down a review and look up, and it would be gone. Really? No he/she/it wasn't gone it was floating in one of the sakes. Every time this happened. And every time it was just one fruit fly going for the death swim. I didn't notice at first. I didn't see the pattern. But then one night it became clear. The fruit fly would always die in the sweetest sake of the tasting. Seems unlikely, but I started plotting the demise of my little friends. And with almost 99% accuracy the fruit fly would find the sake with the lowest SMV (Sake Meter Value), which technically or not is considered the sweetest sake.
I knew it! Fruit flies do have a purpose. They give their lives in the service of informing sake drinkers which sakes drink sweeter than others. I mean, how stoic is that? They die so we may or may not drink a sweeter brew. What selfless little creatures. Perhaps they can be considered the "Angels" of the sake industry - Sake Angels.
To this day I still do not know where they come from-maybe heaven maybe not, but they appear out of nowhere. I could be tasting a sake in a hotel room in Chicago, and ta-dah in bobs a fruit fly looking for my brew. I could be in a dark little izakaya in Osaka, and my silent little buddy flutters in from the shadows and takes a final swan dive into my sake glass when I avert my eyes. I could be at my folk's home in Ohio in the winter doing a small tasting, and there it is circling out of nowhere- in the middle of a snowstorm-and comes to rest (in peace) in one of my several glasses. Oh Sake Angels how do you do it?
I've spoken about sake industry mascots in the past, but the fruit fly is more like an industry pet. The fruit fly is to the sake world as the humming bird is to the flower world. Instead of hanging glass bulbs filled with sweetened red fluid we simply have to open a luscious bottle of sake and fill a glass. In fact I may now start placing a thimble filled with sake on the table to honor my Sake Angel guest. This serves a dual purpose. For one it is nice to honor the pet of the industry, but more importantly it keeps you from trying to finger-out the dead limp carcass out of your glass as it slips from one side to the other and back before you can finally smash it against the side of the glass and drag it up towards the opening.
So to you my dear classmate from so long ago please realize that fruit flies do have a purpose and they do do something and that something is very special. In a word they are Sake Angels.