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Sake Season - Top 10 Summer Grillin' Sakes

Can you hear the sizzle? No, that's not an egg being fried on the hood of some poor unsuspecting soul's black VW engine hood. No, it's not superheated suntan oil on a hairy-chested thong clad tourist down at the beach. No, that is not the sound of a mosquito flying into the blue light zapper of death hanging above the porch. It's actually the sound of summer! The true sound of summer. It's the sound of your backyard grill cranking out summer favorites left and right - day and night!

Yes folks, it's grillin' season and of course many of you are transfixed on the notion that grilling is only done with wine and beer! Noooooooooooo! Good people, when you lift the hood on your Weber or Viking please realize that sake works as well, if not better, than grape juice and brewskies! Sake is that perfect companion to all things grilled. Seriously, ever hear of Yakitori (all things chicken on a stick)? Sake works wonders with grilled chicken. Grilled steaks? Grilled game? Grilled burgers? Grilled veggies? Sake has the chops to work well with all of these heated delights. Grilled seafood? Foughetaboutit! (I always wanted to type that but I guess I missed the accent!)

This summer when you have that party or get invited to that party that centers around the grill, then do the right thing and get your sake on! Here are some general Sake Grilling Tips and then the Top 10 Grillin' Sakes ranked by price:

Sake Grilling Tips:
  1. With salty and savory fare like chicken go with drier and more clean sakes.
  2. With greasy and oily meats look for sakes with more body and higher acidity levels.
  3. With grilled veggies look for unfiltered (nigori) sakes.
  4. With spicy fare ponder a nigori or look for sweet and fruity sakes, especially genshu, that create a nice "sweet heat" effect.
  5. With shellfish look for very clean and neutral sakes that work with both briny and sweet flesh tones. (Don't forget to use sake with your clam and muscle broth)
  6. With burgers think sakes that have good body, good richness, and tend to be on the semi-sweet rich but not fruity side.
  7. With sauced up fare like ribs, head right for the Nama genshu sakes with big acidity and bright tones that can stand up to all of the action.
  8. With grilled fish think very clean and light Junmai Ginjo and Ginjo sakes that tend to be on the drier side.
  9. With sausages go right for the big bad Yamahai category of sakes that have big presence, high acidity and lots of attitude.
  10. With game and wild cuts of meat try a koshu or aged sake that has a full-bodied personality with musky and somewhat rich sweet tones for a gamey-meets-gamey play.
TOP 10 Grillin' Sakes: (ranked by price)
  1. Daku Junmai Nigori ($20/500ml)
    Good for C, D, G & I
  2. Kirin Zan "Classic" Futsushu ($22/720ml, $47/1.8L)
    Good for A, E, F & H
  3. Bishonen Junmai Ginjo ($22/720ml, $50/1.8L)
    Good for B, D, F & I
  4. Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai "Aqua" ($28/720ml)
    Good for A, E, F & H
  5. Tengumai Junmai Yamahai ($28/720ml, $60/1.8L)
    Good for B, F, G, I & J
  6. Yuki no Bosha Junmai Yamahai ($30/720ml)
    Good for B, F, I & J
  7. Kamoizumi Junmai Ginjo "Shusen" ($33/900ml)
    Good for B, F, G & J
  8. Kanbara Junmai Ginjo ($34/720ml)
    Good for B, F, I & J
  9. Masumi Arabashiri Nama Junmai Ginjo ($36/720ml)
    Good for C, D, F, G & I
  10. Umenishiki Junmai Ginjo Genshu ($37/720ml, $69/1.8L)
    Good for C, D, G & H
(Most of the above sakes are 720ml bottles except for #1 and #7 so if you are looking for a big bottle to bring we carry #2, 3, 5 & 9 in 1.8L size for those really fun/big grilling sessions!)

And of course any sake works with any grilled fare as well as any wine or beer does! These are a little more specific pairings as if you were thinking red wine for meat and white wine for chicken and fish and beer for ribs. Sake works! So don't discount this powerful partner.
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