October 1st is Sake Day or Nihonshu no Hi in Japanese. Sake Day originated in 1978 when the Japan Sake Brewers Association declared it as a day to celebrate and promote the enjoyment of sake. The Chinese character for Sake is 酒, which is very similar to the Chinese zodiac sign for the Rooster, 酉. This Rooster sign is the 10th sign. Hence, as the beginning of the tenth month, October 1st became Sake Day.
There are a number of sake tasting events taking place in NYC around Sake Day. Some are solely for the restaurant and retail trade but there are also several open to consumers. The largest and most comprehensive sake tasting opportunity for sake professionals, devotees, and neophytes was the annual Joy of Sake on 9/27. Created by Chris Pearce, the founder of World Sake International Imports based in Hawaii, the New York version of the event was held for the fourth year at The Puck Building in the East Village. This year, an amazing total of 302 sake from 142 breweries was presented. Of this total, about 100 were not yet available in the US. Confronted with this "surfeit of riches", we decided to first focus on the floor featuring the non-available sake. Even though this reduced our tasting universe by 67% we were still faced with a serious sake sampling challenge....how to strategically approach this and gain the learning that we were seeking? We paced ourselves by segmenting our efforts to first taste the "gold award" winners (judged by a panel of experts prior to the event) and intermittently chatting with friends and new acquaintances who share our enthusiasm for nihonshu. We were delighted to see them and be in the company of so many other New Yorkers tasting and embracing sake for over three hours on a beautiful fall evening.
Coincidentally, our friend Melinda from Tokyo Through the Drinking Glass was visiting New York during the same week and we were fortunate enough to spend time with her. Along with recently annointed Sake Samurai Tim Sullivan from Urban Sake, we headed to Sake Bar Decibel for a midnight drink after dinner one evening. Even with full stomachs and a well fueled buzz, we still had the thirst to drink sake like salarymen in Tokyo. The fact that he had to work the next morning didn't dissuade Tim from joining us in the late evening hours for some of his favorite brews! Otsukare, Tim!
On the last evening of Melinda's visit, we had a dinner party for her at our favorite Greek restaurant, Snack Taverna in the West Village. Along with several of Melinda's other New York friends including Tim, we enjoyed the restaurant's gracious hospitality and an abundant feast of food and drink. Our most grateful thanks go out to our friend Adam Greene, the owner of Snack Taverna, who generously arranged the delicious assortment of mezedes, Greek salad, saganaki, and country sausage, followed by the restaurant's uniquely Greek style preparations of branzino, roast chicken, leg of lamb, stuffed peppers, baklava, sheep's milk yogurt, and rice pudding. As you might imagine, no one left hungry!
With or without sake, sharing drinks with friends is the spirit of Sake Day. We were fortunate enough to have the best of both worlds in celebration of Sake Day 2007!