Where to drink sake in Denver
Today is World Sake Day – and it’s not just another meaningless food or drink celebration to add to your calendar. October 1 marks the first day of the sake-making season in Japan, the birthplace of the fermented drink. â€œThis marks the start of the fiscal year for many breweries, but for the most part it’s an honorary day to celebrate sake and the people who support the industry,â€ says Peyton Walston, resident sake expert at Uchi Austin, the Hai Hospitality restaurant which also a location in Denver. Sake, sometimes referred to as rice wine, is an alcoholic drink made from rice, yeast, water, and koji, a mushroom widely used to make alcohol.
Drinking sake is an incredible experience and a journey that takes many turns, says Jason Kosmas, Director of Beverages at Uchi. â€œThere is so much to explore,â€ he notes. â€œOnce you think you know it all, you can learn something different from sake. World Sake Day reminds us to learn something new.
When choosing a sake, Kosmas thinks that one thing to know is that the price usually denotes the level of quality, pointing out that if you go for an expensive sake you usually get something that costs money to produce. . “Fruity and floral sakes must be crushed, losing their exterior, therefore yielding less”, he says. But Kosmas adds that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to have good sake. â€œ’Tokubetsu’ on a label means that the brewer used a unique ingredient or process to make it special,â€ he explains. “These sakes tend to have a bit of umami and go very well with food.”
Uchi seeks quality sake that tells a story, whether it’s production or brewing. It is also necessary that the sakes on the menu go well with the food. â€œUsually, the ones we select invoke one of our dishes. For example, we taste a Daiginjo sake and we say: â€œthat would be perfect with Hama Chili! Says Kosmas.
Walston, who is an advanced sake professional certified by the Sake Education Council, says that when it comes to pairing sake with food, intensity is key. She likes to start her meal with sake that mimics a fruity cocktail before moving on to richer varieties that resist larger foods. â€œBut, like wine, the contrasting characteristics can also be amazing,â€ she adds. â€œA sake with fruity characteristics can balance oily fish or fried chicken. The best thing is to taste it until you find something amazing. And talk about it. ”
Blue Sushi Sake Grill’s The goal is to provide customers with a pleasant and accessible sake experience as well. This is done by offering a wide range of sake at different prices, a half-price sake bottle night on Tuesday, sake-based cocktails, and sake flights that make it easy to sample a variety.
â€œWe really hope to continue to bring attention to sake and show our customers that there is more to the spirit than just sake bombs,â€ said Jordan Drake, general manager of Blue Sushi’s Denver store. Sake is a wonderful spirit that makes a fantastic pairing for sushi and other hot and cold dishes, Drake says, and it can be seen as a very organized experience as opposed to a very fancy one.
Drake adds that you can really enjoy sake as you would wine, with each type of sake highlighting a unique dining experience. â€œWe’re inspired by tradition, of course, and also have our own version of the sake experience. We have a robust, diverse and quality menu that we love to celebrate with our guests, â€he says.
Here are ten places in Denver where you can taste sake and learn about the Japanese spirit any day of the year:
2500 Laurent Street
Each sake on Uchi’s menu comes with flavor descriptors to help sake newbies. Konteki has flavors of banana, anise, and truffle, while Wakatake Onikoroshi has notes of plum, spearmint, and black pepper, for example. But Otokoyama Tokubetsu is the most popular sake in Denver. â€œIt’s super crispy and clean and the quality is heavily influenced by the water source,â€ says Kosmas. “It’s an everyday sake.”
2611, rue des Noyers
General manager Caitlin Lapinel said one of her favorites from the happy hour selection at Osaka Ramen is the Chika Girl. “I was first drawn to the cute logo and the one-cup serving size, and was convinced by the many food pairing options it allows,” she explains. Other happy hour favorites include horchata, sho chiku bai, and the snow maiden. In addition to the wide variety of sakes, the restaurant recently added a “sparkling jelly sake” called Ozeki Ikezo to the menu which Lapinel says brings a “fun tasting experience to the table.”
Hapa’s sake menu uses Nihonshu-do, also known as the sake meter value, which measures the sweetness of sake from very mild to very dry. Customers can customize a flight of sake to sample four varieties. The Ginjo is described as slightly dry with flavors of green apple and pear while the Sho Chiku Bai is unfiltered, robust, bold and sweet. Specialty cocktails also include sake, like the Mazinga Mule made with raspberry infused sake, tequila, lime, and ginger beer.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
1616 16th Street
The most popular sake at Blue Sushi is Yoshinogawa Winter Warrior, which is a junmai ginjo and is medium bodied with tropical notes of melon and honeydew and a floral aroma. The menu contains descriptors, such as sweet, neutral, and dry, that customers have found helpful in expanding their palates, says the beverage manager. Dustin Fox.
2715 17th Street
The selection of sakes here consists of cold and hot options. Sakes are grouped by descriptions which include dry and earthy, sweet and expressive, and cloudy with one to three options listed below. Sake is also found in some of the craft cocktails like carbonated sake sangria made with Hakushika Junami sake, Roku gin, apricot bitters, rosemary and grapefruit.
1560 Boulder Street
Mizu Isakaya’s menu is filled with fresh sushi from a Japanese fish market and a large drink menu, which is fine since an izakaya is a Japanese pub. The large sake list has variable prices per bottle ranging from $ 20 to $ 150. Mio Sparkling is sweet with lemongrass and honeydew flavors and Moon on the Water has notes of yellow apple, pear and honeydew and is brewed by one of the only female sake brewery owners in Japan.
Even though Motomaki is more of a casual, fast food dining experience with rolls and bowls, the sake shouldn’t be ignored. There are a handful of cold sake options, including Yaegaki and Oseki Nigori, as well as three hot sake options, including a vanilla variety and Gekkaikan.
Colorado Sake Co.
3559 Larimer Street
Colorado’s first and only sake brewery creates both traditional sake, made only with California-grown rice, koji, rocky mountain yeast and water, as well as revisited versions. The reinvented sakes are infused with a variety of ingredients like local palisade peaches, blueberries and hibiscus flowers. Try the Hawaiian Bonfire for a tropical treat with a little heat – it’s infused with fresh pineapple, coconut, and serrano peppers.
Nigiri and buns pair with a list of all-made in Japan sake at this conveyor belt sushi restaurant. The flavors range from earthy and salty to sparkling and fruity and floral. The go-to sake here for most is the Sayuri Nigori which is sold both by the bottle and by the glass, and is cloudy and slightly sweet.
450 North Broadway
Choose from a variety of nine cold sakes to drink with an eclectic traditional Japanese ramen menu. Must-try options here include Junmai Yaegaki, a dry, medium-bodied sake with a crunchy acid finish, and Kikusui Nigori Perfect Snow which possesses a full-bodied sweetness.