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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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…
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!