Yahoo Japan News proudly proclaims that it’s summer, and therefore time for sake highballs!

It also gives some suggestions on how to drink chilled sake on hot days, while comparing different Kyoto and Nara breweries based on city sets available from the end of May 2020.

The selections of five sake are curated by specialist wholesaler Izumiya, who have been involved in developing regional branding for sake since 2014.

Eisaku Imanishi, owner of Izumiya, wanted to show people there are more ways to drink sake than just hot or cold. He was afraid they would think that diluting sake with water or something else would weaken the flavour and be disrespectful to the brewers who had worked so hard to create it. He disagrees, recommending mixing with carbonated drinks to give a wonderfully refreshing result.

They present sake highball recipes developed by famous Nara bartender Takeshi Miyazaki, former bartender of the Nara Hotel, now running his own Bar ‘Pippin’.

Gion Highball

  • 45 ml sake
  • 3-5 drops apple vinegar
  • 90 ml tonic water

The acidity of the vinegar contrasts with the gentle sweetness of sake, delivering a mellow yet refreshing taste. Just right for summer.

Hichō Highball

  • 45 ml sake
  • 5 ml lime syrup
  • 90 ml ginger ale

The strength of the ginger ale is flavoured by the lime, resulting in a sharp and smart cocktail. Even though sake is brewed it still retains a little sweetness, so just adding soda water is enough to enjoy it in a new way. (The writer says they’re not a whisk(e)y fan, but they would definitely have this again.)

Izumiya aimed for a selection of sake that would charm newcomers as well as satisfy existing sake fans. The set of five sake lets consumers discover different labels, taste and appreciate a variety of different flavour profiles and discover what they like.

Featured in the Kyoto set are:

  • Satō Shuzō, Eikun junmaishu
  • Sasaki Shuzō, Jūrakudai junmai daiginjō
  • Shotoku Shuzō, Shotoku junmai daiginjō
  • Tamanohikari Shuzō, Tamanohikari junmai daiginjō
  • Kitagawa Honke, Tomio junmai daiginjō

Rice varieties used include Kyo no Kagayaki, a special Kyoto Prefecture sake rice. Many Kyoto sake are relatively light, allowing them to pair easily with delicate local dishes, and all of these sake are characterised by light, refreshing flavours. Tomio, in particular, has rich aromas and mellow sweetness, making it very easy to drink! On the other hand, Tamanohikari has a sharp finish and goes extremely well with food.

The Nara set rounds out the spectrum of flavours by delivering something richer and fuller. One of the (more plausible) mythical origin sites of sake, it has plenty to offer fans and tourists alike. Many sake brewed in the area are rich and sweet, and pair well with deep fried or intensely flavoured dishes.

The Nara set includes:

  • Imanishi Seibei Shoten, Harushika, an aromatic ginjō with rice-derived sweetness
  • Yagi Shuzō, Shōhei, high in acidity
  • Umenoyado Shuzō, Umenoyado, mellow but with an accent of acidity
  • Kitamura Shuzō, Shōjō, bold flavours that draw out the umami of the rice
  • Nara Toyosawa Shuzō, Hōshuku junmai characterised by rice umami and short finish

All are made with rice from outside the prefecture (Yamada Nishiki, Hi no Hikari, Gin no Sato) and allow the drinker to taste the difference between rice varieties.

Sets of five 500 ml bottles, all around 14-15%, are priced at JPY 5,000 (before tax), or a selection of three for a comparison set priced at JPY 3,000 (before tax).


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