Hello, my name is Amanda Berkowitz and I love sake. You know, Japanese rice wine. Except its not wine. Its brewed, more like beer. I am that person bringing sake instead of beer or wine to a party, always interested in educating people about it and trying to find good types for every palate. I have been studying sake for over 10 years and I figured its time to take it somewhere further than a hobby. Lets see where this journey takes me.
Like all Americans, my introduction to sake was served hot and rich with a lot of “kuchi atari” to be slammed down in a white ceramic shot glass. I had just turned 21 and was not an experienced drinker, but I even knew then that this was not for me. I was actually not a big fan of alcohol. I know, not a typical 21 year old. I didnt like beer and if it had liquor in it, it had to be sweet to mask the flavor of the alcohol-y fire, the impact, the “kuchi atari”. I never liked to think of myself as girly, so I felt like my taste buds were mocking me and I was eager to find my drink. This was not it, but at the same time I wasnt completely against it. Little did I know at the time that there are more types of sake than red wine and the type they heat up is always the most rich, the most fire, the most impact, the most “kuchi atari”.
A milestone in my sake education was getting past the hot sake. I did that while out to dinner with friends and someone introduced me to mild sake. It was certainly not the best quality sake but it did begin to open my eyes to the range of flavors that sake could have and it peaked my interest.
After exhausting all possibilities of sake at my go-to sushi spots, I found myself at Sakagura, New York’s temple of sake and the second largest sake bar in the Unites States outside of Hawaii. When I first came here and started to order in English, the waiter walked away and what seemed like the only English speaking waiter took his place. Now a days, there are a lot more gaijin customers. But the first time I came here, I was overwhelmed by the menu. It was the first time I had seen the smv scale and thought someone had quantified the different flavors of each sake. I saw one sake that was off the charts in sweetness, so I knew I had to have it. It was the Ichinokura Himezen which is, in my opinion, one of the sweetest sakes ever made and is really a very different kind of sake, like an ice wine or a Port.
When I tasted this, after the hot sake, I was blown away by the range of flavors of sake and it was in that moment that I knew I had to taste every sake in between.