First, like the rubes that we are, we drank hot sake. Then, we discovered that heating it was all just a ruse to mask cheap wine. So, we started ordering it cold. Eventually, we learned the differences between junmai-shu and ginjo-shu and experimented with milky unfiltered stuff in dark sake dens like Decibel. And recently, we discovered aged sake, a strange and largely unregulated substance that is barely recognizable from its young counterpart.
Akin to sherry, aged sake has an oxidized essence and ranges in color from a pale amontillado-like shade of hay to a deeper brown, like oloroso. We sampled a few different ones at Zenkichi, the labyrinthine Japanese brasserie in Williamsburg. The first, a Himezen Ichinokura Junmai, was clear and rather simply sweet. The second, a Hanahato Kijoshu aged 8 years, was more complex–amber in color and redolent of nuts, vanilla and bitter chocolate. The third, a hay-colored Katsuyama Genroku, was all dried fruit and spice, and was the most balanced, pairing best with the sweet homemade mochi we ordered.
Zenkichi, which is currently celebrating cherry blossom season with a traditional omakase menu featuring the aromatic, tart flowers, has plans to open a Manhattan location next year. Kanpai to that.