Sake has come a long way, and not only in literal terms. In Miami, it’s becoming increasingly common to spot at least one bottle of the Japanese beverage some people refer to as "rice wine." From chefs developing their own labels to DJs curating collections, sake is becoming as popular as beer in the Magic City.
True sake lovers, by the way, drink it cold because its flavor profiles are destroyed when heated. Here are the spots pouring the best sakes in town.
Nightlife impresario David Grutman's Komodo is the only Miami restaurant that offers international sensation DJ Richie Hawtin’s sake, Enter ($68 to $75 for 720 ml). For those looking for something extraspecial, Komodo sommelier Collin Bleess recommends Junmai Daigingo by Kirinzan, Soto, Tedorigawa, and/or Dassai. “All the offerings are superclean, light, crisp, and add a hint of a tropical sweetness," he says. "They're a perfect match for the hot Miami weather, especially when paired with our spicy pan-Asian cuisine.”
Nobu by Eden Roc
The only sakes you will find here are from Hokusetsu, a brewery established in 1827. General manager Bryan Shinohara says it’s arguably the finest sake in the world because the water surrounding the island is regarded as among the best with which to make the fermented beverage. It’s aged three years in very limited quantities, making it extremely rare. It will cost you, though: A 60-ounce bottle is $3,500. On the more affordable side is a Junmai Ginjo 71 ($130 for a 24-ounce bottle), which pairs best with sushi, Shinohara says.
Omakase for two
3. Blue Ribbon Sushi
Manager Johnny Nitikoontanon is well-versed in sake selections, which are divided by Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, and Junmai Daiginjyo. For beginners, those classifications indicate the degree to which the rice grain is polished before brewing. Nitikoontanon believes the most special sake comes from the Junmai Ginjo class, which he thinks is the best balanced. The most popular, though, is Blue Ribbon sake, and there is one type in every category.
When Ferran Adrià says a Japanese restaurant is one of the best in the world outside of Japan, it's a good one. The sake menu here is short and simple, which might be one of the reasons Travel + Leisure named Naoe one of the top sushi restaurants in the United States. Chef Kevin Cory uses sake only from his family’s brewery, Nakamura Shuzou, located in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan. Naoe serves certified organic Akira, Nichiei Junmai Daiginjyo, Nichiei Junmai Ginjyo, Kaga Setsubai, and Kaga No Yukizake, ranging from $17 to $140. Cory admits, “Depending on when, my favorite Nakamura Shuzou sake is the slightly rich Akira, the first sake to be certified organic around the world, made with certified organic Mitsuhikari rice milled to 70 percent or the harmony of umami, sharpness, and acidity.”
Makoto's sake menu features diverse pours, including a sparkling sake, a plum sake, and one served in a can. There's also a wide range of price points: $45 to $600 per bottle. The Makoto sake ($13/glass, $92/bottle) took more than two years to develop and is produced in a family-owned brewery in Akita that's more than 15 years old. Another interesting sake is the Kikusui Funaguchi ($22 for 200 ml), which is can-aged and exclusive to Makoto. The restaurant's founder, Makoto Okuwa, explains the reason behind the unique packaging: "It's presented in a can rather than a bottle because light cannot get in, so it's essentially the same taste as if it was a sample from the brewery."