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
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
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
(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
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.