Sake is daunting to plenty of American drinkers, who are willing to steer towards beer, wine and liquor styles they’re more familiar with rather than gambling on a bottle of sake that they don’t truly understand. That’s why I wrote a guide to sake last year, outlining the different kinds and explaining how it really isn’t a rice wine, but something else entirely.
Now, let’s take it a step farther.
The best sake I’ve tried so far is Dovetail Sake’s Nakahama Junmai, a slightly dry drink that’s fruity and light despite packing 16 percent alcohol. The only ingredients: rice, koji (a fungus used for fermentation), water and Japanese yeast. (For the sake connoisseurs out there: Nakahama Junmai is made with Yamada Nishiki rice at a milling rate of 60 percent. If nigori sake is more your style, Dovetail produces a Omori Nigori as well.)
The boozy spirit that lands somewhere between wine and smooth liquor in taste is named for Nakahama Manjiro, a 19th Century Japanese-American who taught ship-building and whaling, later becoming an advisor to the Japanese government. Manjiro lived in Massachusetts, and that’s where this small-batch sake is made, too.
Sake is increasingly being made in the United States, a sign of its rising popularity here. But Dovetail Sake’s products aren’t available for purchase yet outside of Massachusetts — I’m hoping that by raising its profile, we can increase demand enough that local stores will order it.
But if that’s too much effort or you don’t trust me, there are easier ways to step into the sake world. Check out the restaurant by the same name in High Point where several choices are available, hit up a grocery store like Deep Roots in Greensboro or try some at a Japanese restaurant. Or, if you want to throw a little money around, you could hire Brad Russell of northcarolinasake.com to come teach a class on the beverage.
I jest — only partially — but the point is that sake is rising in popularity stateside, and I’m just trying to help you keep up. Start with Dovetail’s Nakahama Junmai if you can or try another junmai variety in the meantime, but at least give sake a shot.