Libations: the Rice is nice

Benjamin Welch

I’ve probably consumed more sake in my life than wine, assuming you don’t count the Mogen David that I took shots of every Sunday morning from age 8 to 18. Sake is much less acidic, meaning it’s good for you, and doesn’t stain your lips and teeth, leaving you unknowingly looking like a baby with cake all over its face until you finally notice in the bathroom mirror hours later. And, like wine, sake comes in a multitude of flavors and styles — it’s not just something you microwave and enjoy along with gas station sushi.

Sake is actually more akin to beer than wine; it’s brewed and can be consumed soon after completion rather than suffering through the aging process while the grapes discombobulate or however riesling is made. Sake also doesn’t come from your standard table rice; premium sake is brewed with special grains in which the starch component is concentrated at the center. During the brewing process, the fats and proteins are melted off and the rice shrinks considerably. It’s basically what the It Works! lap band MLM scam was supposed to do. (Nothing is a deader giveaway that something doesn’t work than the product being named It Works!)

I picked up two bottles of sake — one clear and one cloudy — to compare from Momokawa, which is native to the Japanese prefecture of … Oregon? Oh, well, it’s pretty good anyway and costs $16.

First is the Ruby, a “lightly sweet sake.” The Ruby is clear enough to be passable for water, perfect for walking around town with if you forget your paper sack. It’s quite floral, with hints of berries, melons, pineapple and pear. Probably none of those ingredients is actually in the rice-based beverage, but perhaps. The back of the label alludes to the possibility.

Next is the Pearl, a creamy nigori sake. “Nigori” basically means “creamy,” but the more words on a bottle, the better. Cloudy sakes are my favorite because of the heft. They remind me in texture of those SoBe Liz Blizz drinks of my youth. I don’t understand why people complain about textures. None of them disgust me, only tantalize me, like squid and escargot and tapioca pudding. Similar in flavor to the Ruby but with a little more earthiness, a bottle of Pearl before bed will send you into a pleasant dreamworld if you pass out watching the right YouTube videos.

I accumulated most of my sake knowledge from a Food & Wine seminar last summer, where attendees discussed and drank our way through six samples of high-end sake, ranging in flavors from key lime and jolly rancher to sweaty gym socks and decomposed body. The drinks spanned in color from completely transparent to hazily unfiltered to what looked like a byproduct of the Gold King Mine spill. That one was really gross.

In conclusion, I thought of a clever tagline for a sake brand that’s on par with “got milk?”, and anyone can take it if they want. Just send me a tribute of a few sample bottles quarterly. Ready? “For goodness, sake.”