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The Da Vinci News site covers a book published by the daughter of a brewery with the aim of introducing more people to sake.

Kuramoto no Musume to Tanoshimu Nihonshu Nyumon (蔵元の娘と楽しむ日本酒入門, “Enjoy being introduced to sake by the daughter of a brewer”), is written in a light and easy style and sports a manga-style illustration of three women drinking together on the cover.

Author Mayuko Kita is in line to become the 9th owner of the Kita brewery in Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture. The book covers topics such as selecting a sake by looking for similarity in flavour, which allows you to be a bit more adventurous than following the standard practice of ordering sake with sashimi. Matching dishes with strong flavours with an equally strongly flavoured sake, or a dry and delicate sake with mild dishes, vastly increases the range of possible pairings. The “watery” aspect of sake doesn’t go well with oily foods, so Kita suggests warming the sake to help it stand up to the oil.

She also recommends getting more out of sake by stopping to smell the aroma – specifically the tatsuka (立ち香, orthonasal smell) and fukumika (含み香, retronasal or “mouth smell”). The former is what you get when you smell the aroma of the sake before drinking it, and the latter is the smell + taste you get when you have the sake in your mouth and breathe to bring the aroma past the receptors at the back of the mouth and nose. [The article makes it sound like this is something particular to sake, but I’ve come across it in tea, coffee and chocolate tasting.] The orthonasal aromas can be easier to identify than the retronasal ones. The book recommends letting the sake wash over your tongue as you drink it, then keeping it in your mouth while you breathe in. Breathing out will then send the aroma past the back of the nose.

Kita mentions that some people give sake a wide berth because they think it delivers a powerful hangover, but it all depends on how you drink it. She recommends yawaragi-mizu (和らぎ水, “softening water”), which is basically drinking water as you drink sake. [The line in the article is literally “Yawaragi-mizu is, in other words, normal water”.] Kita recommends drinking equal quantities of both.

The book also makes an unusual recommendation to dilute the sake itself. The Kita tōji enjoys nigori with lemon and sparkling water. Kita points to how sake is being drunk in the USA, which doesn’t have Japan’s preconceived ideas – it’s often served with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Why not try it and see if you find a new way of enjoying sake?