When you hear sake, what comes to mind? Sushi? One of the most complex and misunderstood alcoholic beverages, sake is so much more than a drink to enjoy with raw fish. Although it’s often called a rice wine, sake is made from fermented, polished rice in a process that’s more like beer, and it complements many kinds of foods. Following are six pairings of sake with Milwaukee foods that will change your perception of this versatile beverage. For example, many sakes are not served warm, and don’t need to be served in small cups. You can serve these sakes in wine glasses, chilled or at room temperature – alongside some great local takeout. Kanpai!
AVAILABLE AT RAY’S WINE AND SPIRITS, 8930 W. NORTH AVE., WAUWATOSA; LUSH POPCORN
The sake’s bubbles make this salty snack a great companion. Mio sake has flavors reminiscent of pears, and the sweetness of the fruit is a great complement to the smokiness of the bourbon popcorn. Serve chilled.
AVAILABLE AT DISCOUNT LIQUOR, 5031 W. OKLAHOMA AVE. OR 919 N. BARSTOW ST., WAUKESHA; HEAVEN’S TABLE BBQ IN CROSSROADS COLLECTIVE, 2238 N. FARWELL AVE.
Ribs from Heaven’s Table BBQ The Tentaka is known as the go-to for BBQ because of its high acidity and umami flavors, which cut the richness and fat of the smoked meat. Serve at room temperature, as you would a red wine.
AVAILABLE AT TRUESAKE.COM; INDULGENCE CHOCOLATIERS (THREE LOCATIONS)
This sake is like no other. Brewed with a recipe that traces back to 1712, its aged honey and sherry flavors make it an ideal substitute for any dessert wine without being overly sweet. It’s also a perfect companion for this bittersweet, oral chocolate bar. Serve chilled.
AVAILABLE AT DOWNER AVENUE WINE & SPIRITS, 2638 N. DOWNER AVE.; TRANSFER PIZZERIA CAFE, 101 W. MITCHELL ST.
What about pizza? This sake in a well-designed can is great with Transfer’s cheesy, barbecued-chicken slice because its lactic acid cuts through the fat. Genshu means undiluted, so it has more alcohol than the average sake – another reason it’s a good choice with heavier foods. Serve chilled.
AVAILABLE AT TOTAL WINE (THREE AREA LOCATIONS); REAL CHILI, 419 E. WELLS ST. AND 1625 W. WELLS ST.
Nigori, or cloudy, refers to sake that contains some rice solids. This one is creamy with FLoral notes, pairing well with spicy foods like chili. Serve chilled.
AVAILABLE AT NŌ STUDIOS, 1037 W. MCKINLEY AVE.; CAVAS, 401 E. ERIE ST.
Sake complements a variety of seafood, and the rustic style of this sake goes well with rich seafood dishes like Cavas’ Spanish paella. Serve chilled.
88Nine Radio Milwaukee DJ Tarik Moody is a certified sake professional and resident sake scholar at Nō Studios, where he hosts sake tastings.