What does Chris Johnson suggest for those new to sake?
I always suggest trying a couple things by the glass. Try to talk to someone like me at Cherry, where I’ve created a list that is very open for the customers — there are 22 different sakes by the glass. The idea is to ask questions and/or try from the different sections. Traditional sakes like junmai are a little more rustic and entry level, and tend to be slightly earthier. The next level, or style per se, is going to be ginjo, which is a little more floral and fruity without being sweet. Then the level after that is daiginjo, which is the super premium that’s a little bit more expensive, but also has a lot more elegance, depth and notes to it. When you have a list and people can try a glass from all the different sections, they can kind of learn which they like best. As a new beverage, it’s hard for someone to just go, “I like that one.” It’s great to have people try and taste the different sakes so they can get an idea of which they prefer.
When they come into the restaurant, I’ll ask them what kind of wines they normally like — riesling, chardonnay, earthy red wine. I won’t be able to give them those exact flavors, but based on what they say, I’ll be able to get a sake that has the same kind of qualities to it. If you like a full-bodied wine, I can find you a full-bodied sake. I’m not going to be able to get one that tastes like cherries or blackberries because it’s not the right fruit, but I can get you a sake with the same sort of qualities.