Atsuo Okubo (text) and Jun Utagawa (photos) report for Pen Online, covered in Yahoo Japan News, on some more sake magic from innovative pairing expert Marie Chiba, owner of the GEM by Moto and Know by Moto bars in Tokyo.

As many more people find themselves drinking at home, some are also looking for new ways to make the most of their sake.

Marie Chiba swoops in to the rescue, with recommendations for some well-known labels and new and interesting ways to drink them. [アレンジ法, or “arrangement” as the article puts it.]

Her choices run the gamut from doburoku to sparkling sake to koshu.

She also gives suggestions for perfectly paired side dishes, and all the sake she recommends are available in her favourite online store, Imadeya. Let’s dive in and see what her sake world holds in store!

Doburoku + tomato juice = chilled soup

Sake: Minshuku Tōno Doburoku Kimoto (720 ml bottle JPY 3,850 including tax)

In the fairy tale village of Tōno, a small guest house brews refined doburoku that continues to charm the most ardent sake fans. It’s still as heavy as you would expect, making it hard to finish a bottle. Marie Chiba argues that instead of being seen as a nuisance, doburoku should be considered a treasure trove of different ways to experiment with drinking sake. Not only that, it can be used as an ingredient in its own right, so she wishes more people would appreciate its versatility.

Her first suggestion for drinking doburoku is diluted 1:1 with sparkling water, which she finds a perfect match for Chinese food. It stands up to chili, washes away any fat left in the mouth and makes you want to keep eating. She can think of nothing better than drinking it with kimchi nabe on a hot day.

Suggestion number two is doburoku mixed 1:1 with tomato juice, which she recommends to go with creamy pasta dishes. She finds that the acidity in the tomato draws out even more depth of flavour from a dish. And if you add a little more tomato juice, you can even serve it as a dish in its own right. Top with a splash of olive oil and a little black pepper to make an original twist on gazpacho, and you’ve instantly turned doburoku into a stylish starter.

Sparkling sake x ground sanshō pepper = perfect for Italian food

Sake: Miyasaka Brewery “Masumi” Sparkling Origarami (750 ml bottle JPY 2,200 including tax)

This popular sparkling sake with its refreshing mouthfeel is made for a bright summer day. The Miyasaka Brewery were one of the first to develop the skills to create sparkling sake using the same in-bottle secondary fermentation as Champagne. Marie Chiba points to it as a prime example of the fine acidity that can emerge when sake is made sparkling. Drinking it reveals concentrated yet fleeting notes of apple and yoghurt, flavours that never fail to lift spirits.

She recommends pouring the sake into a glass, adding ice and then a tiny pinch of ground sanshō pepper which releases a blast of invigorating citrus aroma. And to go with that? Italian, maybe a salad with chicken or cheese. Why? Because these flavours go perfectly with olive oil and salt or with butter. Or drink it as it is for a sparkling companion for Japanese food. Just a touch of ground sanshō pepper will switch it into Western mode. The real fun is in how you add that final twist.

Kijōshu x coffee = ultimate pairing for after-dinner or with sweets

Kijōshu is a type of sake where sake is added instead of water at the last stage of building up the ferment. Niida Honke don’t just use sake, they substitute last year’s kijōshu to make this year’s, resulting in a sweet, rich flavour profile. Marie Chiba describes it as a particularly easygoing, refined type of kijōshu, which perfumes the mouth with soft, creamy aromas like those of a financier almond cake.

What could you possibly add to this richly flavoured and elegant sake? Her tip is to blend 9 parts of their Hyakunen Kijoshu with 1 part normal black coffee. If she can get her hands on Maruyama Coffee’s unsweetened café latte base, she changes the ratio to 9.5:0.5. It’s the best. Just imagine enjoying it after dinner, or with Western-style sweets like chocolate or madelines or even rum-raisin ice cream. The hints of coffee are a perfect complement to the sugary flavours.


I really enjoy seeing what Marie Chiba is up to – her idea of “dobusoda” – doburoku + soda water with ramen actually got me to make doburoku for the first time just so I could have it, and I currently have some coffee ice cubes and koshu in the fridge because I follow her on Twitter/Instagram. Never a dull moment.


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