The Joy of Sake Tasting: August 31, San Francisco

Ah, Sake. The inspiration for hundreds of haiku through the ages. The drink of Shoguns. And, on the other hand, the source of innumerable college hangovers, and the raucous cries of “Ichi, Ni, San, Sake Bomb!!” My very first legal alcoholic drink was a sake bomb. Something I’ll probably never live down.

Perhaps though I am starting to make up for it by enjoying fine sake for the past seven or eight years the proper way: lightly chilled and as far away from a pint of beer as possible.

Sake is way past “becoming” a hip new trend. It’s a solid third alternative to wine and cocktails in fine dining establishments in every major urban area. This is thanks in part to the ever-growing popularity of sushi, as well, no doubt, the younger generation’s search for alternatives to Budweiser and martinis. Which of course has given rise to the sake cocktail — now THE hot drink at many a New York and San Francisco lounge.

It should come as no surprise to anyone, then, that there is a very large public Sake tasting event in both San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York, nor that it seems to be incredibly popular. Last year’s event was a bit of a zoo, and thankfully the organizers have moved it to a much larger venue, which hopefully will make it more enjoyable for everyone.

The Joy of Sake is put on by the International Sake Association, whose US headquarters is in Hawaii. It features the world’s largest selection of sakes available for tasting in a single event outside of Japan. 250 or so, to be exact, paired with appetizers and finger food from several popular restaurants. In San Francisco, they include Betelnut, The Hog Island Oyster Company, Memphis Minnies, Ozumo, Roy’s, Kiku of Tokyo, Sanraku, and several sushi restaurants such as Sushi Ran, Sakae, Hana, and Kirala.

Sake tasting is a lot harder than wine tasting, mostly because even more so than wine, sake is meant to be drunk with food. Additionally, the flavors and aromas of sake are much more subtle than wine’s, and palate fatigue can overcome them much quicker than at a wine tasting.

But if you’re up for the challenge, or if you simply are interested in learning more about sake (the best way to learn is to taste!) then I encourage you to attend.

The Joy of Sake Tasting
Thursday August 31, 2006 6:00PM – 8:30PM
Moscone West Convention Center
At Fourth and Howard Streets
San Francisco, CA 94103

Tickets are $70 per person and can be purchased in advance online or by calling (888) 359-9137.

Additional Dates: September 28th, New York City. More details available on the event web site.

Based on the popularity of last year’s event, I would encourage anyone attending to get there early. The usual recommendations for public tastings apply: dark, loose fitting clothing; a full stomach; and spit, spit, spit.