Green River Star -

By David Martin

Try, try again: my first times drinking sake


Admittedly, my first experiences with sake weren’t terribly positive.

The first time I tried it, I was a poor college student in Laramie and still getting used to the fact that I could legally get into a liquor store and actually buy something. Having had an interest in Japanese things since I was a small child, I was immediately surprised I could find a bottle of rice wine in Laramie. It was in a dark green bottle and the price was right too, so I bought it and quickly took it back to my dorm room. As soon as I got back, I poured a small amount into a microwavable cup and heated it, as it was the best way I had to warm anything. The moment the hot liquid touched my tongue, my excitement faded as disappointment flooded my mouth. It was terrible. I poured it out and tried it again, this time unheated, and again was hit in the mouth by a strong, unpleasant flavor. The bottle sat in my minifridge untouched until I tossed it out the day I graduated and moved out.

A couple more experiments with it happened afterward, including an unfortunately-named “Axis Powers” drink a friend concocted using Jagermeister and sake while trying to be funny. Yes, that was about as disgusting as the description suggests. After a while, I more or less decided it wasn’t for me and left it alone. It wouldn’t be for a number of years before I discovered how good a nice glass of sake could be.

During a trip to Arizona, I stopped off at a World Market in Prescott, Ariz. and discovered the store had multiple varieties available, not just that seemingly ubiquitous green bottle I had seen in Wyoming. They also carried smaller bottles that made great sample sizes, which made better sense than wasting an entire bottle if I didn’t like it. And so, sitting at a fire pit at an Arizona hotel, I finally found something I liked.

One of the first things I learned that night is there are many varieties of sake. My favorite are the unfiltered varieties, known as “nigori” sakes. These sakes are cloudy in appearance, as the liquid contains rice solids that haven’t been filtered out or fermented. They’re also better chilled, which I find better to suit my personal tastes. Some unfiltered sakes have a sweetness to them, which ranges based on the specific brew itself. As such, they can be paired with desserts like chocolate cake, my personal favorite, or vanilla ice cream. Saltier foods seem to go well with sweet sakes too, I’ve found, and I’ve also read that sweet sakes can also be paired with spicy foods. I can’t say I’ve ever tried that though.

One of my favorite brands is called Little Lilly. It’s not easy to miss, as the bottle is a light pink color and can be seen across almost any room. It was one of the varieties I sampled in Arizona and have enjoyed anytime I’ve been able to find a bottle. When poured out, it has that cloudy appearance I mentioned earlier and the texture of the unfiltered rice can be felt on the tongue. It sounds weird, I admit, but it isn’t bad.

Sure, sake isn’t the first thing a lot of people think of when they’re looking for a refreshing beverage, especially in southwestern Wyoming. However, branching out and trying something new can be a rewarding experience.

Even if the first time you try something, you’re completely unimpressed.


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