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Review: Sake Bar in Epcot’s Japan

For all of you drinking-around-the-World fans, it’s time to dive into Sake! If you haven’t had the chance to sample it, Sake is a Japanese alcohol made from rice. Like wine and beer, it has multiple varieties, flavors, and “faces,” and exploring it can be a full-time job! For those who want a full history of Sake, the Wikipedia version is a good one.

Today, I had the chance to spend an hour or so with friends Sarah and Matt (many of you know Sarah Holodick from her many guest articles on this blog) at the Sake bar in the very back of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Epcot’s Japan pavilion.

Mitsukoshi Department Store

I’ve never seen this little tasting area very full, and today — during Spring Break — the line was long for the cash register, but the Sake bar itself was still quite barren. I chalk that up to not enough advertising, because spending time sampling at this little location is a great way to relax and refresh during a long day at Epcot.

The menu offers 10 different sake varieties to choose from, all of which are sold by the bottle in the store as well. The menu is divided into Recommended Sake (“Things my manager likes” according to the cast member), Aperitif Sake (“sweeter sake”), and Traditional Sake.

Recommended Sake

Aperitif Sake

Traditional Sake

I gathered some opinions from a few new friends (including Devin — Hi Devin!) and ordered the Kairakuen (a plum wine), the Hana Awaka (a sparkling sake), and the Yuzu (a flavored sake blended with Yuzu citrus juice).

The plum wine was NOT Takara, which I usually enjoy. This was Kairakuen, which didn’t taste as sweet to me as the Takara I’m used to from the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. While still enjoyable, I probably wouldn’t order this one again.

The sparkling sake had a fun texture to it and an enjoyable flavor. It was sweet and was very much something you could order with a standard meal.

The Yuzu sake tasted very much like a hard lemonade. We later mixed the sparkling sake and the Yuzu sake and ended up with something you could enjoy at a summer barbecue (think Mike’s Hard Lemonade)! Definitely not something I’d ever expect from a sake tasting!

Top to Bottom -- Plum Wine, Sparkling Sake, Yuzu Sake

After tasting these three, we decided to sample an extra dry sake to get the difference in texture and flavor from the super sweet varieties. I ordered the Izumi Judan. This is a great one to try as a heated sake if that’s a preparation you enjoy.

Personally, it was much too strong a taste for me; this is the kind of alcohol taste that completely clears your head at the first sip. You’ll feel it throughout your mouth, throat, and sinuses!

Extra Dry Sake

Then it was on to the unfiltered sake. An “unfiltered” variety hasn’t had all of the rice particles filtered from it, so a small shake to mix the particles with the alcohol is needed before pouring. We tried the Shirakawa Go version.

Once again, this was a strong sake that wasn’t really to my liking. Matt, who seemed to be the lover of the dry alcohol in our group, didn’t mind the unfiltered version nearly as much as I did and ended up taking the rest of the extra dry sake along with him as he left.

Unfiltered Sake

The sake of the month this month is the Muscat Cocktail, made with Okuno and Muscat Grape Juice. Peeled grapes are floating in the cocktail!

This one is somewhat sweet, but has quite a bite to it! The strong grape flavor was reminiscent of Concord grapes to me…

Muscat Cocktail

Pouring Muscat

Muscat Cocktail

Overall, this was a very productive trip to the sake bar! If you haven’t already been here, definitely make a bee-line for this spot the next time you’re in the Japan pavilion. At $5-$10 per glass, it’s not necessarily a steal, but it does make for a fun afternoon adventure that can easily cost less than $20.

Have you sampled sake in the Japan pavilion? Let us know about your favorites in the comments section below!

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13 Comments

  1. Nate says:

    I went here about four years ago and loved it – are they still giving out little plastic japanese sake cups?

  2. Sarah says:

    @Nate, yes they are! They are $1 each. Here are mine and Matt’s from yesterday: http://twitpic.com/4bltyg

    Thank you again, AJ! Can’t wait to see you again!

  3. Shawn says:

    I had just discovered this place a few weeks ago on my most recent visit. Had the Kurosawa, which was nice and smooth. It didn’t have a strong bitterness that many people don’t like with sake.

    It was actually quite busy when I was there. Most people hung out for a bit to chat and have a few glasses of sake. This is easily one of my new favorite places to visit.

  4. Samantha says:

    I really liked the Yuzu, most of the others are too bite-y for me. My all time fave is the plum wine, though I didn’t realize that they had a different one at the F&W — I’ve always tried the one in the restaurant.

    I am going to give a few of the sakes you tried a chance next time we go, though–sounds like I need to give them more of a chance!

    Great piece!
    Samantha @AboutWDW

  5. Griffin says:

    We have tried the Hana Awaka and actually brought home a couple of bottles of it, along with a little Sake drinking set. I definitely prefer the sweeter versions to ones that have a more alcohol kind of taste. That Yuzu one looks interesting, I like the idea of it tasting like lemonade :) The unfiltered one looks interesting, but sounds too strong for me. And as for the Muscat flavor…We had some Muscat candies from the store there, kinda tasted like gym socks to me, so I would probably skip the cocktail, lol. Thanks for the interesting article!

  6. Alan says:

    Another great sort of hidden gem at WDW. Half the fun of our vacations there are finding or remembering these places on the road less traveled. I think I could spend a week and never need to go on a ride to have a great time.

    Speaking of great times, I think a “fun AFTERNOON adventure” there would require a gurney to get me back to my room.

  7. Shayne says:

    Good grief, AJ, after tasting that many different kinds of sake, I’m not sure I’d be able to write an intelligible report about it! My hat’s off to you!

    We discovered the sake bar on our trip last year and, while neither of us really likes sake that much, we thought it was worthwhile to give it a try. We tried several different varieties over a couple of days. While it’s still not our drink of choice, we appreciated the chance to try a sampling of something not in our usual repertoire.

    The women working at the bar were very friendly and helpful, and we also met some other guests that were knowledgeable about sake and helped us make some good choices.

  8. AJ says:

    Nate! Good to see you! Yep — Sake Cups are available for $1 after you purchase sake.

    Sarah — Had such a great time with you guys. Hi to Matt!

    Griffin — Stay tuned. I have the muscat candy to try!

    Alan — So true. I was walking though Epcot today and thinking the same thing. Both about rides and gurneys. ;-)

    Shayne — Would love to sip sake with you two! We had a really great time, and I was very impressed that I enjoyed so much of what I tried.

  9. Jeff says:

    I’m shocked that I’ve never noticed this Sake bar.
    Perhaps it’s because I’m so busy trying to pull my wife out of that amazing Mitsukoshi store. She’s of Japanese heritage, and loves spending money in there.

    But this is perfect. On our next trip, I’ll cut her loose and go get hammered on Sake.
    We’ll both be happy.
    (Atleast until my hangover the next morning………….and the eventual credit card bill.)
    Oh well. I’m still glad to learn about this spot. Thanks!!

  10. Josh says:

    There’s so many different types of Sake, I’d be surprised if they didn’t all start tasting the same. I’m guessing that Sake is considered an Alcohol in the states, so another few years for me.

    In the meantime, do a few Juice reports for me AJ. ;)

  11. vanessa says:

    We were there in March 7th and I wanted to try the cocktail of the month! Oh man, it was just amazing taste. I’m glad I got it and not bad for 9 dollars.

  12. The Joel says:

    Glad I saw this. I LOVE sake, I even went to a sake tasting at one of the restaurants in my town a few years ago.
    Will have check this out. Quick question:
    Do they offer a flight?

  13. AJ says:

    The Joel — I can’t remember if they offer a flight or not, honestly! I know they’re offering a Sake flight at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge right now, though!

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