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What's a good way to learn more about sake?

I like sake, but I don't know much about it. There are numerous Japanese restaurants near me and also lots of liquor stores, but I don't know where to start. What's a good book or website to start learning?


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  1. If you live in NYC, The shelves at Sakaya on E. 9th St. are filled with artisan bottles. I believe they have 150+ bottles. Sake is the only thing they sell. I'm sure they would be happy to educate and guide you.


    2 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        They sell some select shochu as well.

      2. I've found one of the best ways is to find a Japanese restaurant that will do sake flights. It was very helpful to have someone guide me through four or five small tastes of different types of sake side-by-side -- it made it easy to taste the differences between them.

        1. Depending on where you are; Izakaya are great ways to try different Sake and get some great small plates in the mix.
          Here are a couple in my area

            1. Here is a free, monthly newsletter with consistently interesting information: John Gaunter's Sake World Email Newsletter. His website also lists pamphlets you can buy/download.

              Also, Gaunter's book, The Sake Handbook, is an excellent resource (paperback, inexpensive.)

              Sakaya, as mentioned, is the best place in NYC for the range of sakes--and both Rick and Hiroko, the owners, can give you ideas about what to try, etc.

              Finally, another excellent online site us urbansake.com

              2 Replies
                1. re: penthouse pup

                  I second John Gauntner's books and website. I met him when I got into sake heavily back in the mid-90's. Then met up with him a few times in Japan 8-10 years ago. I learned so much that my brain felt like it was melting at times. But lots of premium sake helped... IN NYC look for sake events hosted by Timothy Sullivan. He's a certified sake master and teaches a lot. I'll try to remember to post about the next sake events in NYC I get invited to. The Japanese Consulate does several a year that I always go to.

                2. Hard to find the good stuff in many cities. My favorite sushi resto in Denver, nameless for this purpose, gave me a premium sushi magnum over the holidays, with the wooden cups and saucers. What a treat it was!

                  1. Unfortunately to drink good sake in the U.S., especially here in NYC, you have to pay to play. It's just really expensive. But yeah, the sources provided here are very good. Philip Harper or John Gaunter's books on sake are excellent.

                    John is really the international non-Japanese spokesman and expert on sake. He has good relationships with the brewers and he conducts an English sake professional course in Tokyo regularly and has been doing some in the U.S. the last few years. They are a bit expensive and a couple days long and probably not for the average consumer. I know that Rick and Hiroko, from Sakaya (which literally means "sake shop") took his course in Japan before opening. But on the lighter, more inexpensive side, John annually conducts a lecture, along with a tasting from many guest brewers, at the Japan Society in the Spring. He's been doing this for many years now and the topics change but he'll sometimes circle back to like Sake 101, which is a really good primer. And of course it is fun to try all the different sake and meet the brewers- although it's not really the ideal environment for enjoyment. John sticks around and is a really nice guy and very approachable with follow-up questions or recommendations.

                    Tim Sullivan runs Urban Sake website. I know he also conducts a sake appreciation class at Astor Wines and Spirits. I've never taken that class, but the other classes are very well done and so that would be my top recommendation if the course is available. Brooklyn Kitchen also runs a sake appreciation class I believe.

                    I think the two best izakaya places to drink and talk about sake are probably Sakagura (literally means "sake brewery") in East Midtown and Yopparai, on LES. Both are set up with terrific selections and very qualified staff. Prices are....pricey. Sakagura will do sake brewer events. And I'm pretty sure the matron of Yopparai took Gaunter's class.

                    The best place to buy in the area is at Mitsuwa Japanese market in Edgewater, NJ. They have the largest selection, various sizes in a broad price range, and they have improved their in-store sake advice giving with a specialist usually stationed or hovering around that aisle- especially on Saturdays.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Silverjay

                      Silverjay nailed it as usual... the Japan Society classes are excellent, I've been many times. And the Astor Center classes as well. I must have been to over 50 events and classes there back when I was a full time food/beverage writer 6-8 years ago, and still get invites several times a year which I gladly attend whenever possible. Also Mitsuwa market in Edgewater, I used to go there every few weeks for sake and shochu, it's huge. Classes at Sakagura are where I first got my real education on premium sake around 15 years ago. I haven't been lately, but they probably had over 300 types of sake last time I was there, and they used to do classes and tastings every month for both sake, and shochu.

                    2. I just got the following email from Tim Sullivan. I thought you might be interested.
                      Do you want to take your sake knowledge to the next level and get certified as a Sake Adviser?

                      Open to hospitality industry professionals as well as serious sake enthusiasts, this Sake Adviser course will dive deep into the world of sake. Learn about the history of sake, all about sake ingredients, sake tasting and the sake classification system.

                      CERTIFIED SAKE ADVISER
                      Introductory Sake Course for Professionals and Sake Enthusiasts. The Sake School of America is endorsed by the Sake Service Institute International (SSI), the largest organization of sake sommelier certification in Japan.
                      Upon completion of the course and passing the Sake Adviser exam, you will receive the Sake Adviser certificate and pin.

                      HISTORY OF SAKE
                      PRODUCTION METHODS
                      READING SAKE LABELS
                      SERVING SAKE
                      SAKE TASTING SESSION
                      Fee: $475.00
                      Instructor: Timothy Sullivan
                      Course #: SSA-139 English
                      Location: New York Mutual Trading, Inc.
                      77 Metro Way, Secaucus, NJ 07094
                      NOTE: Free Shuttle bus from Manhattan will be provided
                      Lecture Date: March 31 (Monday) Time: 8:30 AM ~ 4:00 PM
                      Exam Date: March 31 (Monday) Time: 4:00 PM ~ 5:00 PM

                      CLICK HERE to sign up!!
                      [On the Registration page, enter course #: SSA-139 English] http://sakeschoolofamerica.com/Regist...

                      About the Sake School of America
                      SAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA is an education and training center of Sake, Shochu, and Japanese liquors, for Sake professionals and enthusiasts to expand knowledge and to explore further enjoyment of the category.

                      SAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA aims toward fostering higher appreciation and memorable drinking and dining experiences. We are fully committed in educating trade professionals and enthusiasts alike, to promote Sake in faraway countries at the same level of understanding and of enjoyment as is in its homeland of Japan.
                      In the 1980′s in Japan, Jizake fine artisan Sake climbed to popularity as consumers discovered tantalizing flavors and aromas from microbrewers crafted in remote breweries, some with legendary tales which date back centuries. When this best kept secret arrived in US during the 1990′s, Americans too were quickly enamored, charmed by "the novel Jizake", the finesse, and pure joy. Then came Shochu, Ji-Beer, and now, a resurgence of Junmai and Honjozo Sake.

                      Nowadays, with a variety of specialized foods covering the spectrum, from casual dining, trendy Sushi bars, authentic Izakayas, to fancy Kaiseki, there's a Jizake suitable for any dish and Nigori Sake, shochu, Japanese Ji-Beer, Umeshu, and other interesting brews. The world of Sake is a joyful exploration into Japanese culture, cuisine, and the brewing art.