Skip to main content

The Best Summer Sakes to Buy

Just as we do with wine and cocktails, we crave different types of sake in different seasons. So to get the lowdown on the best summer sakes we should be drinking (especially as we enter the dog days), we chatted with International Sake Sommelier Jessica Joly. Not only is Joly a WSET Level 3 sake sommelier, she’s also the marketing director of Sake Discoveries and the inaugural winner of Miss Sake USA 2016. Joly knows her stuff, and she loves to educate her U.S. audience on the nuances of sake through tastings and food pairing events. Joly talks about her five favorite summer sakes below, including tasting notes and ideal food pairings so you can find your warm weather match.

Amabuki Gin No Kurenai Junmai “Pink Lady”

Amabuki Gin No Kurenai Junmai
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re a fan of rosé wine, you’ll love this lively, fruit-forward sake. “We call this sake the ‘Pink Lady’ because of its rose color,” Joly says. “The color comes from the ancient strain of black rice that they add during the end of fermentation. This producer uses flower yeast for all their sakes, and they blend Pink Nadeshiko (flower), strawberry, vanilla, and cactus for this particular brew.” This sake is lightly sweet with fruit undertones of fig and strawberry. Joly recommends drinking it with bold dishes like beef bolognese and sweet and sour chicken, and it also makes for a lovely aperitif before a meal.

Hakkaisan “Awa” Sparkling Sake

Image used with permission by copyright holder

This sake feels like a celebration in a glass with each and every sip. “The sake producer Hakkaisan is very well known for its crisp, clean, and dry styles of sake — what we call ‘magic water,’” Joly says. “In the last two years, they launched a sparkling [sake] that is made the same way as champagne and called it Awa, which means bubbles in Japanese.” This secondary, in-bottle fermentation produces an elegant sake with soft and refreshing bubbles that champagne fans will love. It has a super soft acidity and crisp finish that Joly says pairs well with dishes like pizza, fried calamari, and beef lok lak, a Cambodian beef dish. If you’re in the mood for a dessert that feels a little bit fancy, Joly suggests serving this sparkling sake with raspberry sorbet.

Mimurosugi Tsuyuhakaze

Mimurosugi Tsuyuhakaze
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Raw fish lovers, this is the sake for you. Mimurosugi’s sakes are delicately crafted, which gives them a soft flavor that’s incredibly easy to drink. “Mimurosugi is one of the top and most talked about producers in Japan right now,” Joly says. “It’s run by the son, who took over his father’s crumbling sake brewery and converted it into a successful business within the last five years. The water that he uses comes from the oldest shrine of Omiwa, where they say the god of sake rests and therefore the sake is blessed by him.” Delicate with subtle umami notes and a soft finish, Joly says to serve this sake with seafood like oysters, ceviche, sushi, and carpaccio.

Senkin Modern Muku Junmai Daiginjo

Senkin Modern Muku Junmai Daiginjo
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Sake is low in acidity when compared to most wines, but this producer’s focus is to create juicier, tarter styles that drink more like white wines. “It’s run by two young brothers who have been influenced by the wine world,” Joly says. “The oldest brother and president, Usui-san, previously studied wine and has converted his brewing style to focus more on acidity.” This sake is fresh and bright with notes of green apple, and it’s great for people who love wines like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Joly suggests pairing it with pasta dishes like cacio e pepe or seafood pescatore and a sugar snap pea salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette.

Brooklyn Kura Occidental Dry-Hopped Junmai Ginjo

Brooklyn Kura Occidental Dry-Hopped Junmai Ginjo
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Brooklyn Kura sake is inspired by tradition but brewed in NYC’s Industry City. “They are the perfect example of contemporary, unique, and craft sake,” Joly says. “They are really setting the stage for sake producers all over the United States and creating products that attract sake lovers and newbies.” Brooklyn Kura just released its Occidental series, a Western riff on a Junmai sake that is bound to be your new favorite summer drink. “They are using dry hops and adding them into the fermentation,” Joly says. “And when they let it age about a week or two, the color turns faintly pink. It’s a super interesting brew because it smells like beer because of the hops, and it’s very floral with notes of lychee and peaches and tastes like a sake. It’s the perfect summer sake and it’s only a seasonal selection, so purchase it before they run out.” Bright and aromatic with lots of tropical fruit notes, Joly recommends pairing this light-bodied sake with camembert cheese with green apples and honey, as well as lobsters roasted with garlic and butter (you don’t have to tell us twice!).

Editors' Recommendations

Amanda Gabriele
Amanda Gabriele is a food and travel writer at The Manual and the former senior editor at Supercall. She can’t live without…
4 of Our Favorite Musicians’ Favorite Drinks
andy shauf

As a music lover with a background in the drinks industry, I’m often left wondering what my favorite artists sip on. While most fans debate about which B-side the band will play live or what song they’ll cover for an encore, I’m waging a personal debate about what’s in the lead singer’s Solo cup.
With some artists, it’s easier to detect their preferred beverage. I’ve witnessed Brett Dennen enjoying some wine on stage, Band of Horses sipping beers in between songs, and legendary prog-rockers The Mars Volta partaking in some weird, steaming, brightly-colored concoction before and after destroying every guitar and mic stand in sight (no way it was just tea in there). Often times, though, the band keeps the drinking backstage, behind the curtains and way from adoring fans.

What does the performing class enjoy? It’s about as eclectic a favorite drinks list as the music they make. What we like to sip, like the sounds we run through our speakers, is a reflection of who we are and there’s no room for a one-size-fits-all approach.
Some musicians like a drink or two to get the creative juices flowing, whether it be trying to write a song in the wee hours or settling on a chord progression that will get the listener moving. Others pull something out of the cellar to celebrate a successful album or festival appearance. Some don’t even touch the stuff, having had their own battles with alcohol or being of a mind that their best work comes from a completely grounded mental state.
Kenneth Pattengale is one half of the California folk duo Milk Carton Kids. The guitarist and vocalist appreciates a good cocktail after an evening performance. One in particular, devised by Brandon Bramhall of Attaboy, captures his heart. It’s a take on an American classic, not unlike his group’s steeped-in-tradition sound.

Read more
Super Bowl of Beers: The Best Brews from San Francisco and Kansas City
2020 super bowl beers best of san francisco kansas city fieldwork feature

While the highly anticipated ads may tell you otherwise, what you drink this Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t have to be generic suds. In fact, you can drink some great stuff from in and around the two cities represented in this year’s matchup.

As the Kansas City Chiefs get set to take on the San Francisco 49ers, another rivalry comes to life — that of craft beer from the two American cities. We’ve picked three of our favorites from the Bay Area and the city that sits in two states to suit up and fetch a W in the name of beer excellence.

Read more
Horton Vineyard’s Petit Manseng Is Officially the Best Wine in Virginia
A red wine glass and wine.

Trust me, Virginia wine is coming. Not in droves, mind you, but here and there, on the shelves of your local bottle shop or on the list of your neighborhood’s most adventurous restaurant.
Here’s why: The state is presently at an intriguing crossroads. It’s been in the wine game long enough to know what works and, after many additional years of fine-tuning its treatment of the most suitable varieties, finds itself in a certain sweet spot. This is the fork in the road where labels decide to go for broke and appeal to the masses or continue the pioneering projects that got them to this very point (or some combination thereof).
Quite a few of the wines from the Commonwealth are good. Others, not so much. Perhaps more importantly, they’re fairly intrepid, just about across the board. In other words, while the region has achieved some noteworthiness among inner circles and at a few stray competitions, Virginia is not yet known for its wine (even though it produces the 8th most in the country). That translates to some freewheeling winemaking that can lead to interesting grapes and unexpected blends, all within a time frame wherein the state is still carving out its own, still-to-come legacy.

A lot of states we now know to be excellent wine outlets had similar phases — stretches of obvious emerging talent framed by a Wild West, DIY sort of sensibility. For consumers, it’s one of the coolest times to explore a region, as it typically lacks the crowds and commercialization that can come with fame. Some would argue that California had that in the 1970s and 80s, Walla Walla in the early aughts, and the Willamette Valley up until about a decade ago.
Presently, there are about 300 producers in the state and counting, pulling from about 4,000 acres of planted vineyard land. They exist all over the state, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to diverse valley floors and shorelines. Virginia’s wine history goes way back to the Founding Fathers era, when folk like Thomas Jefferson dabbled in the craft, with Jefferson even establishing his own estate vineyard (a pair of them at Monticello, in fact). The oldest wine grape planted in American soil, Norton, hails from Virginia.
Virginian winegrowers deal with their share of hardships. They come in the form of hot, humid summers and blisteringly cold winters. Picking times become crucial as moisture can cause rot and high temperatures can lead to over-ripening on the vine.
Every year since 1982, the state has put on what’s called the Governor’s Cup. Judged by a panel of wine pros, the tasting whittles down hundreds of entries made within the state to the top dozen Virginia wines. In 2019, some 510 wines were tasted from about 100 producers, all crafted from 100% Virginia fruit. The winning dozen included a mix of Bordeaux-style red blends (or “meritage” wines), Cab Franc, Tannat, and more.

Read more