The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2010

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Page 32 of 104

LAUNCH PAD Revealed O Successful Saké Secrets ROCK SAKÉ RoCKS! by Richard Carleton Hacker One of Japan’s oldest alcoholic beverages has just become one of America’s hottest new cocktail commodities—and it only took 1,700 years to make it to the back bar. You can throw away those traditional wooden masu boxes and ochoko ceramic cups; you won’t need them for this 21st-century libation. Instead, bring out the rocks glasses and stemware, because the secret to saké’s success is out: It’s called Rock Saké and it’s crafted for the American tastes. Rock Saké is made in Oregon with pure coastal mountain water, Sacramento-grown rice and is the only American-named and -owned saké on the market. Rock Saké has two distinctive fl avor profi les, not to mention a name that customers can pronounce. It is gluten free, sulfi te free and lower in calories than hard liquor. Needless to say, the Americanization of this ancient Japanese wine is changing the way mixologists and their customers call for cocktails. In its simplest form, saké (pronounced “sah-KAY”) is a fermented rice beverage, made from polished rice and 80 percent water, to which a k¯ oji, or fermenting agent, At Michael Mina’s XIV in West Hollywood, CA, a Blueberry Cloud, made with Rock Saké Cloud, vodka, muddled blueberries and fresh lemon, complements the fl avors of XIV’s interpretation of a central Thailand dish of hamachi sashimi with nuoc cham vinaigrette, salty caramel peanut powder and cilantro with micro basil. Bartender Moira Taylor releases the prime garnish. 32 / the tasting panel / august 2010 is added to convert the rice starches into sugar. It starts to get complicated, as there are seven different classifi cations of saké, and up until now, all had unpronounceable brand names (unless you were conversant in Japanese) and were rarely found outside traditional Japanese establishments. So not only was saké hard for most Americans to categorize and defi ne, it was linguistically impossible to call for, either on-premise or off. But an innovative Southern California entrepreneur has changed all that. “I used to be in the wine business and had only tried low quality hot saké,” said Seth Podell, who, with his partner, Brad Paddock, founded Rock Saké. “While having dinner in a sushi restaurant I met a saké sommelier who introduced me to premium saké, which, of course, was served chilled. I loved it, but couldn’t pronounce nor remember the name, which meant I couldn’t order it again. I didn’t want to just drink saké with sushi. It is such a great drink, why should it only available in Japanese res- PHOTO: RICHARD CARLETON HACKER

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