Sake spotlight


Shichi Hon Yari 'Seven Swordsmen' Junmai + Pepperoni Pizza: A Match Made in Heaven

The mission of The Koji Club is to celebrate, educate and lift up Japanese sake.

One of our favorite ways to do that is through food. Why? Because sake is food's BEST companion.

And also, who doesn't like snacks?

When I say sake is food's best friend, I'm not just talking about Japanese food. I saying that every cuisine gets a boost from our favorite bevvie.

Italian. Thai. Mexican. Indian. Sichuan. Turkish. Barbecue. French. Even a BEC from your favorite bodega can go with sake (hey, no judgements here).

Is that a bold statement? Sure. But the truth lies in science

Sake is made up of four ingredients: rice, water, koji, yeast. Koji — the namesake of our little club — is the magical ingredient transforming a shelf-stable pantry staple into something yeast can eat. Without koji, we wouldn't be drinking sake at happy hours because the yeast would have no sugar to convert into alcohol.

But koji does something else, too.

It unlocks the flavor of the rice itself, turning its starch, fat, proteins, enzymes and amino acids into something our taste buds search for in nearly every meal: umami.

Now, I'm not going to break down the science behind umami here (for those wanting that rabbit hole, I highly recommend Koji Alchemy by Rich Shih and Jeremy Umansky) but that is precisely the reason sake plays so well with food.

Umami + Umami = Taste Bud Heaven.

Just as we add soy sauce to our sushi or parmesan to our pasta, sake added to food will amplify the umami in the food itself while simultaneously refreshing our palate to take another bite. 

If you don't believe me, I invite you to try my ultimate sake and food pairing: Shichi Hon Yari Junmai and pepperoni pizza. 

A chilled glass of this junmai may start off demure but a swirl or two around the glass will instantly unlock its bold character.

Personally, I am immediately transported to a forest, fragrant with coffee and cacao. It's a forest where Iberico pigs forage for acorns, hazelnuts and truffles (yes, I know Iberico pigs don't forage for all these things, but this is my flavor fantasy world 🐽 ). As the sake warms, the dampness of the forest turns into the dampness of a basement and I recall the first time I walked into a curing cellar and saw leg after leg of cheesecloth-enrobed ham hanging in rows. 

The deep, rustic flavors of Shichi Hon Yari call for a friend...and pepperoni pizza shows UP.  

Together, the flavors of the sake lock step with the pizza's cheese, tomato, crust and toppings in perfect unison and my taste buds do the ultimate umami happy dance.

The next time you order a pie or two from your favorite joint, pick up a bottle or two of Shichi Hon Yari from the Urban Grape. Because your taste buds deserve to dance, too. 

 Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Sake

Shichi Hon Yari 'Seven Spearsmen' Junmai

Producer: Tomita

Category: Junmai 

Rice: Tamazakae

Prefecture: Shiga 

Milling Ratio: 60%

Alc: 16%

About: Founded in the 1540’s, Tomita Brewery is the 3rd oldest brewery in Japan. 15 generations of sake-brewing family members have helped to hone the distinctive character of Shichi Hon Yari. Technically qualifying as a junmai ginjo with a 60% milling ratio, “Seven Spearsmen” drinks far more rustic and savory than your typical ginjo would and is why Tomita categorizes it as a junmai. 

What we taste: One sip and you’ll see why we’ve dubbed this “The Pizza Sake”: funky mushrooms, truffles, and fennel hit right off the bat. Struck by a sudden craving for pepperoni pizza? Us, too. As the sake warms, cocoa nibs and coffee take center stage. While the umami characteristics linger well after a sip, a subtle bitterness and acidity help to balance it all out. 

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