Photograph by Flickr user tokyofoodcast.
You’ve done the festival events and snagged some sushi. Now it’s time to cap off your cherry blossom viewing experience by enjoying our second favorite gift from Japan: sake.
Washington-area bars and restaurants offer the rice wine many ways this time of year; think sake-based and cherry-blossom-themed cocktails, extended sake menus, and happy hours.
This spot offers 40 kinds of sake, ranging in price from $12 to $169. Popular choices include the moderately priced Snow Beauty or Bamboo Princess bottles. Or try the signature Cherry Saketini ($10), which blends chilled cherry sake, wild cherry vodka, and infused cherries. Pair your sake with one of the spicier Thai dishes for a true blending of flavors.
Indulge in a little liquid courage before you grab a mike and storm the stage at this rowdy karaoke bar. Hit happy hour from 5:30 to 8:30 Sunday through Thursday for $4 Sapporo, $5 sake, and $3 sushi rolls, then get your karaoke on starting at 9:30.
With 15 varieties of sake, there is something for everyone. Mood Swing is great for sake novices thanks to its smooth, fresh, and fruity flavors, while sake pros can enjoy the rich and aromatic taste of Otter Fest. Prices range from $7 to $54.
For an educational sake experience, you can’t beat Kaz Sushi Bistro. The menu explains how sake is graded by purity (determined by what percent of the rice grains’ outer layers have been milled way), and groups the varieties by grade and flavor type: fragrant, light and smooth, rich, and Nigori (unfiltered). Food pairings for each flavor are offered. You can also opt for one of three sake tasting flights ($13 each), or a signature cocktail, such as the sake mimosa, sake latte, sake mojito, or several varieties of sake-tini.
This hotspot is better known for its “crazy hour” happy hour, where everything on the menu is half-price, than its sake selection. But with such reasonable prices, sakes ranging from $6 to $30, and several sake-based cocktails available, it’s definitely worth a visit.
This Penn Quarter restaurant and lounge is a perfect spot for a romantic evening, and with happy hour specials until close and half-price sushi Monday through Thursday, a little sake experimentation is an easy decision. Oya carries 15 different varieties of sake, ranging in price from $16 to $125, which are arranged on the menu from light to robust, making it easy to pick your perfect poison.
Visit this intimate 18th Street restaurant for its sake-based cocktails, such as the signature Plum Blossom (sake, plum wine, and Triple Sec), the sake martini (sake and vermouth), the Pachinko Spritzer (sake, apple juice, pear nectar, and club soda), or the Fi-Ki Sunrise (sake, grenadine, and orange juice).
Serious sake lovers, look no further than modern Asian restaurant Sei. The menu boasts 45 bottles of sake ($10 to $375), multiple by-the-glass options ($6), and several dessert sakes. The most popular choice is the well-known Bamboo Princess, and managers recommend sake novices also try the Ice Dome. Those with a more sophisticated palette can order the Born Ice Berg or any of the unfiltered sakes, which are described as “liquid wasabi.” Like sister restaurant Oya, the menu clearly defines the flavors of each sake to assist in selection.
Enjoy a glass of Snow Shadow ($12) or Daku Unfiltered ($13) in the swanky lounge of Wolfgang Puck‘s restaurant at the Newseum. If you’re looking for a real dining treat–and have cash to burn–opt for the seven-course tasting menu with a wine/sake pairing for $200.
Pop into Richard Sandoval‘s Latin-Asian fusion restaurant for a Kimono Kiss (Grey Goose L’Orange, sake, orange, and ginger) or Sake Sangria (red wine, sake, brandy, oranges, and apples). Or try a sake flight ($11), which lets you sample one ounce of three different sakes, from Hawks in Heaven to Demon Slayer.
Stop by to sip the cherry-blossom-themed cocktail, the Zen Blossom (vanilla vodka, Cointreau, coconut vodka, muddled cherries, cherry purée, St. Germain, citrus, and Karen Coy sake), or enjoy a glass of sparkling sake at the rooftop pool bar.
This Rockville spinoff of the celebrity-frequented Manhattan restaurant has both an extensive sake bottle menu, with quippy descriptions of each, and a saketini menu, which includes a Citrus Green Tea Saketini (Absolut Citron, Zen green tea liqueur, and sake) and a Yin & Yang Saketini (Grey Goose, sake, and cucumber).
For a sweet sake experience, head to Sterling restaurant Hooked for the house fruit-infused sake or a spiced apple saketini.
See our Cherry Blossom Festival 2012 Guide here.