We rarely drink warm sake but we are in the middle of a very cold spell and the temperature did not go above freezing for almost a week. For a few days, the temperature was in the single digits (Fahrenheit). So, in these frigid conditions, a cold drink was not particularly attractive. We made a nice fire in the fireplace and decided to go with warm sake. My wife found some long forgotten Hagi-ware 萩焼き sake bottles (ochoushi お銚子) . I warmed up the sake the traditional way as seen below.
The sake we had was "Gekeikan Black and Gold" 月桂冠 ブッラクアンドゴールド. This is a U.S. brewed sake. Although the details are difficult to come by, the sake was a mixture of sake brewed from rice milled to 60 and 70%. The exact kind of sake rice is not clear. By the degree of milling, this sake would be "Ginjou 吟醸酒" class but they classify this as "Junmai 純米酒" class.
How much to heat up the sake depends on the kind of sake and your preferences but, in general, “Honjouzou 本醸造” and “Junmai” 純米酒 are best suited for drinking warm. I think among the U.S. brewed sake, this one is best for drinking warm. The list below shows the different temperatures and corresponding names for various sakes.
“Jouon” 常温, room temperature 20℃ (68F)
”Hinata kan” 日向燗 sunny side 30℃ (86F)
”Hitohada kan” 人肌燗 skin temperature 35℃ (95F)
”Nuru kan” ぬる燗 luke warm 40℃ (104F)
”Jou kan” 上燗 warm 45℃ (113F)
”Atsu kan” 熱燗 hot 50℃ (122F)
I went for “Atsu kan” at 50C (using a instant read digital thermometer). Since the temperature drops quite quickly, I used a soup bowl filled with boiling water to maintain the temperature which worked well.
These were all leftover from the new year’s dishes I made. I stuffed white and red fish cakes 紅白かまぼこ with tobiko and ikura salmon roe and poured on some wasabi soy sauce. Below the fish cake are kelp salmon rolls, to the right are chicken squares with pine nuts and walnuts. Below that are simmered kabocha pumpkin, in the front on the left is Kimpira burdock root and boiled octopus leg seasoned with wasabi soy sauce.
Warm sake was really nice on this bitter cold evening and warmed us up quickly. The black and gold is a nice gentle sake and perfect for drinking warm.
Of course “Oden” is perfect for warm sake and cold night.
This night, we had an egg, kon-nyaku コンニャク, mochi in a pouch (mochi-kin 餅巾着), carrot 人参, daikon 大根, gobo-ten*ゴボテン and tofu 豆腐 garnished with chopped chives with Japanese hot mustard. All went well with warm sake.
* deep fried fish cake with center of burdock root or "satsuma"age with burdock root ゴボウ入りさつま揚げ.