A glass of "celestial frog"

A glass of fizzy goodness! Nicely chilled "Amagaeru" from Aramasa Shuzo in Akita.  

It's light as a feather and has a subtly sweet yoghurty flavor that vanishes cleanly with the fizz. The low alcohol content - only 9% rather than usual 15-16% - makes it a perfect first drink in the summer time. 

Amongst sake enthusiasts, the brewery is famous for their tireless and extraordinary challenges applying both new and traditional brewing techniques. Of all the amazing lineup, "Amagaeru (meaning 'celestial frog')" is part of what they call the "hidden brew" series of small, experimental batches.

What makes it special, besides its wonderful flavor, is pretty technical: it is not diluted to achieve low alcohol content or pasteurized to stop the fermentation process - the fizz is a natural byproduct. Making this type of sake demands not only great brew skills, but also strict care to keep its condition once bottled - it has to be refrigerated at all time or otherwise the excess gas can break the bottle and the flavor changes as the fermentation goes on. But, It's all worth it for this beautifully light and sophisticated sake.

Aramasa Shuzo

Sweet sweet mirin

After weeks of rain, we now have to deal with a sudden summer heat in Tokyo. At least it's sunny so we don't have to worry about laundry anymore, but it's hot hot hot!

Anyhow, I've recently discovered the wonders of "mirin", a type of syrupy rice liquor that used to be a popular drink back a few centuries ago. Nowadays, it's mostly used for cooking, and no one really think of it as a drink - neither did I until we visited Toshimaya brewery in western Tokyo to write about them for the first volume of our booklet. 

Unlike mass-produced cheap mirin that dominates Japanese kitchen, Toshimaya's mirin is produced the traditional way, by soaking sticky rice and rice molt in shochu (distilled liquor) to infuse sweetness and flavors into the liquid. Though it's thick and incredibly sweet, the sweetness lifts so smoothly that it tastes nice and light. At the same time, it contains 13-14% alcohol, so you can get hammered if you're not careful. It's a bit like porto.  

I've been hooked on sipping mirin on the rocks since the sudden arrival of this summery weather. 

It tastes extra wonderful at the end of a long muggy day - I can feel the sweet liquor evoking happiness as it goes through my body. I've heard of Japanese kitchen drinkers taking a swig of mirin, and I get it now. It's tasty! But, make sure to get a good one if you intend on drinking it. 

Mirin: 669yen/600ml bottle 
Toshimaya Honten