Where to drink sake in Denver

Today is World Sake Day – and it’s not just another meaningless food or drink holiday to add to your calendar. October 1 marks the first day of the sake-making season in Japan, the birthplace of the fermented beverage. Peyton Walston, a Uchi Austin-based sake connoisseur, says this is High Hospitality too location in Denver. Sake, sometimes referred to as rice wine, is an alcoholic beverage made from rice, yeast, water, and koji – a mushroom widely used to make alcohol.

Jason Kosmas, beverage director at Uchi, says drinking alcohol is a great experience and a journey that takes many turns. He says, “There is so much to explore. Once you think you know everything, Sake teaches you something different. World Sake Day reminds us to learn something new.”

When choosing sake, Cosmas notes, one thing to know is that price usually indicates the level of quality, noting that if you choose an expensive sake, you usually get something that requires money to produce. “Fruits and flowers should be ground up, get rid of the outer parts of them, and therefore produce less,” he says. But, he adds, that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank for good. “The ‘Tokubetsu’ on the label indicates that the brewer has used a unique ingredient or process to make it special,” he explains.

Uchi looks for quality brews and tells a story, whether about the production or the brewer. It is also essential that the foods on the menu work well with the food. “The dishes we choose usually call for one of our dishes. For example, we taste for daijingo and say, ‘This would be perfect with hama chili,'” says Kosmas.

Walston, a board-certified advanced sake specialist, says that when it comes to pairing with food, thinking about intensity is key. She likes to start her meal with a fruity cocktail before moving on to richer varieties that tackle hearty foods. “But, like wine, the disparate properties can also be amazing,” she adds. “Sake with its fruit properties can balance out oily fish or fried chicken. The best thing is to taste until you find something great. And talk about it.”

Blue Sushi Sake Grills The goal is to provide guests with an enjoyable experience that is also accessible. This is done by offering a wide variety of sake at different price points, a half-price bottle of sake on Tuesdays, sake made cocktails, and flights making it easy to sample a variety.

“We really hope we can continue to draw attention for sake and show our guests that the spirit is more than just sake bombs,” says Jordan Drake, general manager of Denver’s Blue Sushi Location. Drake says that Sake is a wonderful spirit that works as a great pairing for sushi and other hot and cold dishes, and it can be considered a very coordinated experience rather than a very eye-catching one.

You can really enjoy sake just as you would wine, Drake adds, as each type of sake highlights a unique dining experience. “We are inspired by tradition, of course, and so we also have our own take on the experience to order. We have a strong, diverse and high-quality menu that we love to celebrate with our guests.”

Here are ten places in Denver where you can enjoy sake and learn more about the Japanese spirit any day of the year:

Click to enlarge This sparkling jelly is now on the menu at Osaka Ramen.  - Osaka Ramen/Annie Dent

This sparkling jelly is now on the menu at Osaka Ramen.

Osaka Ramen/Annie Dent

Uchi
2500 Lawrence Street
303-444-1922

Every sake on the menu at Uchi comes with flavor descriptors to help make starters. Konteki has flavors of banana, anise, and truffle, while Wakatake Onikoroshi has notes of plum, mint, and black pepper, for example. But Otokoyama Tokubetsu is the most popular in Denver. “It’s very crisp and clean and the quality is greatly affected by the water source,” says Kosmas. “It’s for everyday life.”

Osaka Ramen
2611 Aljoz Street
303-955-7938

General Manager Caitlin Labinell says one of her favorite happy hour picks at Osaka Ramen is Chika Girl. “I was first drawn to the cute logo and one-cup servings, and was sold by the wide choice of food pairings allowed,” she explains. Other happy hour favorites include horchata, shu chiko pie, and maiden snow. In addition to a large variety of sake, the restaurant recently added a “sparkling jelly dessert” called Ozeki Ikezo to the menu which Lapinel says provides a “pleasant tasting experience at the table.”

This is sushi
Multiple locations
The sake menu uses Hapa Nihonshu-do, also known as the sake scale value, which measures the sweetness of sake from very sweet to very dry. Guests can customize a flight to try four classes. Ginjo is described as slightly dry with flavors of green apple and pear while Sho Chiku Bai is unfiltered, strong, bold and sweet. Specialty cocktails also include sake, such as the Mazinga Mule made with sake infused with berries, tequila, lime, and ginger ale.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill
1616 16 . Street
303-640-3655

The most popular sake in Blue Sushi is Yoshinogawa Winter Warrior, a medium-bodied junmai ginjo with tropical notes of watermelon, honey, and floral notes. The menu features descriptors, such as sweet, neutral, and dry, that guests have found helpful in expanding their tastes, says the beverage guide. Dustin Fox.


Bamboo sushi
2715 17 . Street
303-284-6600

The choice of sake here consists of both cold and hot options. The fruits are grouped by descriptions that include dry and earthy, smooth and expressive and cloudy with one to three options listed below. Sake also makes its way into a few handcrafted cocktails like a carbonated sangria made with Hakushika Junami sake, Roku gin, apricot, rosemary, and bitter grapefruit.

Mizu Izakaya
1560 Boulder Street
720-372-7100

Mizu Isakaya’s menu is filled with fresh sushi sourced from a Japanese fish market and a large drinks list, which is fitting because izakaya is a Japanese pub. The large drink menu has different price points per bottle ranging from $20 to $150. Myo Sparkling is sweet with flavors of lemongrass and manna, Moon on the Water has notes of yellow apple, pear and nutmeg, and is brewed by one of the only Japanese breweries in Japan.

Click to enlarge Denver is the home of the Colorado Sake Company, the state's only brewery.  - JOSHUA MCELREAVY

Denver is the home of the Colorado Sake Company, the state’s only brewery.

Joshua McElrevy

Motomaki
Multiple locations

Although Motomaki is more of a casual, quick dining experience with rolls and bowls, sake shouldn’t be skipped. There are a few cold sake options including Yaegaki and Oseki Nigori along with three hot sake options including a variety of vanilla and Gekkaikan.

Colorado Sake Company
3559 Larimer Street
720-449-6963

The first and only brewery in Colorado Made only with California-grown rice, koji, yeast, and Rocky Mountain water, traditional sake makes versions with a twist. The reinvented cacao is filled with a variety of ingredients, like Palliside plums, blueberries, and hibiscus flowers. Try the Hawaiian Bonfire for a tropical treat with a little heat – it’s infused with fresh pineapple, coconut, and serrano peppers.

Sushi Rama
Multiple locations
Nigiri and rolls are paired with a menu of sake made entirely in Japan at this conveyor belt sushi spot. Flavors range from earthy and salty to sparkling, fruity and floral. Sayuri Niguri is a favorite here for most people, which is sold by the bottle and by glass, and is a bit cloudy and sweet.

Ramen bowl
450 North Broadway
720-398-9324

Choose from a variety of nine cold drinks to drink along with an à la carte menu of traditional Japanese ramen. Go-to options here include Junmai Yaegaki, which is a medium-bodied dry sake with a citrusy finish, and Kikusui Nigori Perfect Snow, which has a full sweetness.

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