Toronto got its first sake brewery last spring. In fact it’s the first sake brewery in eastern North America. The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company has a retail store and tasting bar in the Distillery District open to the public where novices and connoisseurs alike can enjoy fresh unpasteurized sake brewed locally using spring water from northern Ontario. The water source is an important part of the sake making process: it helps create sake’s delicate taste, and rigid restrictions are placed on the concentrations of chemical substances in water that can be used for sake. Water used in sake brewing tends to be groundwater and that’s what makes Ontario Spring Water Sake Company so special, Ontario’s abundant sources of spring water gives these brews a particularly fresh and delightful flavour.
Image 1 and 2 via Ontario Spring Water Sake Company
A member of the brewing society of Japan, the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, brews “Junmai” (pure rice) sake. A veritable who’s who from the sake world have been involved in the organization too, including advisory assistance from Miyasaka Brewing who have been in the sake brewing business since the 1600s in Japan, and award-winning master sake brewer Yoshiko Takahashi.
If you’re in the Toronto area, you should take their Sake Tasting Tour, offered several times per week. Their space is amazing, and if you’re new to the world of sake, the informative and fun tour will be well worth it.
Sake Etiquette and Terminology
Image via Guerrero Ceramics
Sake is served in a traditional vessel generally hand-crafted ceramic called a tokkuri. Tokkuri tend to be bulbous with a long neck. The sake itself can be served cold, at room temperature or heated, depending on the preference of the drinkers, quality of the sake, and season (heated sake is typically reserved for winter and lower quality sakes).
Sake is drunk from small handless cups called choko.
Image via otoriyose.com.jp
When serving sake, it is appropriate to fill the cups of your company, but never your own (even if you’re the host). Your guests should ensure your cup is filled. There are lots of rules governing how one should pour, but generally speaking, holding the tokkuri with your palms facing down is considered polite!
Image via SPGRA