Friday, November 23, 2007

Sake Infused Three Ways

A couple of weeks ago I hosted my monthly wine club, the theme was sake (aka rice wine – work with me, we’ve been doing this for 2 years and we’re slowly running out of themes). The white girls of wine club didn’t take too well to the asian brew so there were liters of leftovers all of which landed in my refrigerator. Desperate for a way to avoid wasting the sake (waste is evil, especially when there are alcohol starved teenagers all over America) I went in search of a creative way to use the half full bottles and stumbled upon the idea of infused sake. I made cranberry and kiwi liquors a few years ago as Christmas gifts and the process is very similar though infusing sake takes only a few days whereas liquors often require a month long under taking.

Last Sunday I wondered the aisles of my local Trade Fair looking for inspiration and came back with some dried ancho chiles, a pomegranate, some limes, a knob of ginger and some dried pineapple slices. After chopping up the makings of this slightly esoteric mise en place I stuffed the bottles with the following combos and let them stew for 4 days (most recipes recommend a 3-7 day refrigerated brewing time).

Pomegranate and Cinnamon infused Fukunishiki Junmai Sake

This concoction was in honor of my friend Kelly who every Christmas blesses me with a bottle of amazing pomegranate liquor. I thought I might be able to create a similar (though more alcoholic) version to gift her with (once she’s done incubating the little one). I added the cinnamon as a nod to fall thinking that the combination could make a wonderful holiday aperitif.

½ liter of sake

The seeds of one large pomegranate

3 cinnamon sticks

Nose: clean sake smell with a slight cinnamon background

Color: Clear, the pomegranate and cinnamon haven’t transferred any color to the sake.

Flavor: Mild cinnamon, can’t taste pomegranate at all. The cinnamon flavor is pleasant mostly because most cinnamon flavored things in the US are reminiscent of red hots not true cinnamon (or at least true cassia).

Sadly I have to pronounce this attempt a bit of a failure. The sake overwhelmed the cinnamon and the cinnamon overwhelmed the pomegranate and I was left wishing for flavor that never made it to my tongue. If you want a pomegranate and cinnamon drink you’re better off with some pom juice and a shot of cinnamon syrup mixed with your vodka – or, if you’re lucky a dram of Kelly’s Pomegranate Liquor.

Lime and Ginger infused Shirakawago Sake

I am a long time lover of all things citrus. My favorite drinks are vodka gimlets and margaritas so the idea of a lime flavored sake was immediately intriguing. I thought that adding a bit of ginger would produce a light layered beverage that would go well with thai food.

½ liter sake

The zest of 3 limes

3 inches of ginger sliced in ¼ inch discs

Color: Slightly green and reminiscent of key lime juice, the liquid is milky because I used an unfilter sake.

Nose: heavily lime-y, can’t detect the ginger

Flavor: Wow! Like drinking a really good vodka gimlet with a sweet wheaty flavor

This version is a success even if I am sad that I can’t taste the ginger. Ginger is such a strong flavor in its own right I’m shocked that it gets so beaten down by the lime and I wonder if grating it would have been more powerful than slicing. I’d like to try mixing just ginger with sake to see if the flavor is just being masked by the lime. Ginger or not I finished two servings while writing this post (that should explain any typos you find).

Pineapple and Ancho Chile infused Pearl Junmai Ginjo Nigori Genshu Sake

(what a mouthful)

½ liter of sake

¼ cup dried ancho chiles, cut into 1/4 inch strips

½ cup dried pineapple chopped into bite sized pieces

Color: The infusion that picked up the most color it’s dark and ruddy like a good sangria

Nose: Chile smell dominates

Flavor: Amazingly good -- Flavor starts out very sweet with a nice hot background, the after taste is much hotter

I’m not sure why we don't see more chile based liquors and infusions given how obsessed our society is with heat. Inspired by my love for fruity salsas and the whole idea of sweet with heat I added pineapple to the mix – I went with dried at the last minute thinking it might produce a more intense flavor and I’m glad I did – I suspect fresh pineapple would have been lost among the heavy chile taste. This is by far the infusion that I was most excited about and even though I find the lime more drinkable it’s this concoction that I’ll be forcing on guests for the rest of the week.


Anonymous said...

Wow sounds like yummy fun. I am missing alcohol a bit but it's going to be a while before I can indulge. Oh and thanks for the text message. Um with the small pox crack were you refering to dickens fair or the fact I'm preggers?


alia, again said... when can we come sample? preggers or not, we miiiiss you...

Sky said...

Wait... Kelly is pregnant? Congrats!

Chuckler said...

Hey. I'm a recent subscriber, and love your blog.

An idea you might not've done before for an alchohol-based event is vodka filtering.

I’d read somewhere about the merits of filtering cheap, crappy vodka with a Brita filter. And in true dodgy science style, I conducted my own experiment with the subjective opinions of the 10 or so people braving it. I had 2 bottles: a bottle of Stolichniya (about AU$40) and a bottle of Regency (about AU$20), on which the tests were devised. 5 tastes were served (in random order) - Stoli unfiltered, Regency unfiltered, Regency once-filtered, Regency thrice-filtered, and Regency quince-filtered.

Almost unanimously, tasters favoured the cheap vodka quince-filtered. Further study is required to see if sep-filtered is markedly better.