Ask the Bartender: When Life Gives You Rice Wine …

. . . here's what to do with it.

What can I do with 1.8 liters of sake? A friend gave me a giant bottle for my birthday. I don't have that many friends to share this with! Don't you serve it in small cups? Does it go bad like wine? And do I have to drink it all in public?—KyleI think you should thank your friend for giving you such a quandary. You don't have to do much to sake, but when you have that much of it, a cocktail party and some doctoring are in order.Even though the process to make it more closely resembles that of beer, sake is commonly referred to as rice wine. I think that's to orient people on how to drink it, because sake contains about as much alcohol as a heavy red wine (around 15 percent). You can sip sake like wine, but you'd never want to drink it like a beer—or you'd end up smashed.Outside of small carafes of subpar warm sake, of which I am a fan, Americans rarely experience this beverage in all its glory. Which is a shame; sake in general has a clean and subtle flavor, with a slight bite from the higher alcohol content that gives your palate a little jolt.Last summer at a huge fund-raising event, we blew through all our hard alcohol and were left with only a bottle of sake. The first step we took was to put it on ice, pour it into small glasses, and offer cut limes and a bowl of pickled ginger. At a party, people generally won't drink what they don't know, so they won't drink sake—unless they think it's really expensive. On the other hand, big bottles of booze always impress, so you're right about wanting to use it all at once.Sake won't go bad as fast as an open beer or bottle of wine will, but inside of two or three weeks it will lose its flavor and devolve into something you'll only want to cook with. If you don't have carpeting and don't mind a little messy fun, the sake bomb is a most underappreciated pastime. To mount your attack, you'll need large beer glasses and small shot glasses. Fill a glass halfway with beer, drop a shot of sake into it, and chug.Then again, there's the old axiom, "When life gives you giant bottles of weird alcohol, make punch." Be careful with sake, however, as most mixers will devastate it. I'd never add anything carbonated with too much sugar, unless you want to hide the sake completely. (For example, avoid the usual punch suspects ginger ale or lemon-lime soda.)To keep it simple and still taste the sake, add 12 to 24 ounces of cherry or cranberry juice and a bottle of cheap sparkling wine, then float or offer slices of orange or lemon. A bottle or two of Tazo's Brambleberry tea, usually found in the grocery store's cold-drink section, is ideal for adding the right amount of sweetness and tang. Keep in mind, too, that if you add just a liter of a non-alcoholic accompaniment, you dilute the strength of the sake to under 11 percent, or slightly less than many white wines.A four-pack of your favorite DRY Soda flavor would be the simplest and best addition to your behemoth. The new juniper flavor will make guests feel as if they're drinking slightly spritzy gin and tonics, and the kumquat brings just the right amount of sweetness.Sake punch is so easy, it's almost remedial. And finally, there's always Sake Pong.Got a question for the bartender? Send your boozy query to msavarino@seattleweekly.com.

 
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