A beginner’s guide to ordering sake in Boston

World Sake Day is Oct. 1. Here's how you can celebrate.

Sake is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice, with the bran removed. Photo courtesy of Quotable Media Co

You don’t need to be an expert to appreciate Japanese sake — as long as you can find it.

Boston has been slowly warming up to the beverage, with the city’s first sake bar opening this past February, followed by the debut of a Medfield brewery and taproom in May.

Sake culture is growing in Boston, according to local wine and sake educator and Sake Day East founder Marina Giordano. Its rise in popularity is something that she has been anticipating for a long time.

“I like wine, and I drink it all the time, but I am in love with sake,” Giordano said. “I love getting people past that [idea] that it’s for sake bombs, or you shoot it.” She is fascinated by the drink’s range and how it can defy people’s expectations, often offering a different experience from what they may have in a bar. She added, “That’s what I love about it, getting people to understand this incredibly ancient beverage that’s hand-crafted. There’s so much dedication that goes into it.”


With World Sake Day around the corner on Oct. 1, asked Giordano how a beginner might enjoy the beverage. Ahead, she recommends four different kinds of sake, the dishes to best pair it with, and where to get it in Greater Boston.

A drink that’s ‘like a white wine’

Sake: Dewazakura Oka Ginjo “Cherry Bouquet”

😋 Flavors: fruity and floral. “It has flavors of peach, melon, some red fruit like raspberry or strawberry. It can develop a creamy texture to the middle and a little viscosity, but it’s more like a white wine.”

🍽️ Pairs with: scallops with broccoli; shrimp tempura — something with a little bit of sweetness to it would make a good match.

📍 Where to get it: Marty’s Fine Wines in Newton, Malden Center Fine Wines, Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Maruichi Select in Brookline, O Ya.

A ‘Cowboy’ drink to go with steak

Sake: Shiokawa Yamahai Junmai Ginjo Genshu “Cowboy”

😋 Flavors: a cereal, lactic, and umami profile. “This has more steamed rice and caramel flavor. It’s a fuller bodied kind of sake. It’s richer; it’s more complexed. It’s a big kind of bold sake.” The drink is a little creamy and has high acidity.

🍽️ Pairs with: barbecue; spaghetti and meatballs; possibly shellfish. “They call it ‘Cowboy’ for a reason. You drink it with your steak.” Heavy foods go well with this beverage.


📍 Where to get it: Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Malden Center Fine Wines, Hojoko.

A sweet sake to pair with pizza

Sake: Kikusui Funaguchi “Gold” Honjozo Nama Genshu

😋 Flavors: “It’s unpasteurized. It hasn’t gone through a heating process. … This one is like banana bread, honey, it’s a little sweet. It’s really big and rich, powerful on the palette. … It’s leaning a little bit more towards beer flavors, but it can parallel to a big, huge red.”

🍽️ Pairs with: a loaded burger; pepperoni pizza. It can go well with spicy foods, but note that the higher alcohol level and the spice from a dish can create more heat. The sweetness will tame down the heat.

📍 Where to get it: Marty’s Fine Wines in Newton, Reliable Market in Somerville, Maruichi Select in Brookline, Hojoko, Fuji, Crudo Boston.

A creamy, ‘full-body’ sake

Sake: Tozai Nigori “Snow Maiden”

😋 Flavors: It hasn’t been filtered, so it’s cloudy. “It has rice particles in it, so it looks sort of like a pina colada.” The drink leans a bit dryer but still has creamy and fruity flavors, like honey dew melon and pineapple. It has a full bodied feel. Remember to shake it before you drink it to settle the rice.

🍽️ Pairs with: spicy foods; tuna poke; barbecued pork; Thai food, or pizza.


📍 Where to get it: The Koji Club, Marty’s Fine Wines in Newton, Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Malden Center Fine Wines, Hojoko, Lola 42, Oishii Boston.