Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Sparkling sake. That's something new.

Gekkeikan, the world’s best selling producer of sake, sent me a couple bottles of the stuff recently. Zipang is the name. Which, a little internet research tells me, is the name of a twenty-six episode Japanese anime television series, so we kind of know where the product's heart is.

Sparkling sake shouldn't come as such a surprise. Certain restaurants and sommeliers have been pushing sake as a dinnertime wine substitute for years. Sparkling wine—spakling sake. Why not?

The product is "naturally carbonated," and comes in at a very light 7% alcohol. The attached press recommended I try it chilled in a champagne flute, so I popped open a bottle and did so. Simple is the first word that comes to mind. Very simple. The ingredients are rice, water and yeast, and that is what you get. It's a light, fizzy, slightly rice-flavored beverage. The advertised tropical fruits I could not locate (not without having the idea put in my head, anyway).

Frankly, I found the drink dull on it own. Refreshing, probably lovely on a sunny terrace on Spain when I might be thinking of absolutely nothing. But in my kitchen in Brooklyn, dull. So I decided to "zip" it up and make it the base of a Champagne cocktail. Why not? Aren't all new sparkling alcoholic beverages basically chasing after Champagne's tail, anyway?

This was much better. A nice change, and I could picture it going lovingly with sushi. A couple problems, though. Zipang doesn't have the bubbles it needs to eat away at that Angostura-saturated sugar cube, so the lump kind of sat down there half-dissolved. Perhaps plain loose sugar might be better in this case.

If I were the Zipang people, and were contemplating going back to the drawing board, I'd think about getting a bit more of a flavor profile and some more fizz into this baby. As it is, though, I can see some mixologists playing around with it nicely. And it might very well become popular with fairer sex. (I hope I offend nobody by saying that.)

Also....hey, whaddaya know—I finished the bottle while typing this.


gordon said...

Try Moon Rabbit--just as (im)potent, yet a lot more floral and fruity than the rather generic Gekkeikan. I was turned on to sparkling sake a few years ago and I've found it a tough habit to break; it's a pretty versatile beverage!

Anonymous said...


Seriously. Best sparkling sake. So much better than Zipang. More...everything.

Subject of daily conversation with local liquor store owner. We buy by the case :)