October 1st is Nihonshu No Hi or Sake Day, a worldwide celebration of the start of the Sake brewing season. What started as a Japanese national observance has seen rapid growth in popularity across the globe as the premier opportunity to learn more about the traditions and culture of Japanese cuisine and to enjoy fresh sake and sushi.
This week I was joined by beverage expert, Alfredo Martinez to chat about everything sake and World Sake Day! If you love sake, you will definitely want to check out this interview as he shared fun and traditional ways to drink it, foods that pair well with sake, how to toast properly and so much more! This interview was a lot of fun, especially since I know so many of you will enjoy it.
Fun And Traditional Ways To Drink Sake
Candie Anderson: With October 1st being World Sake Day, what are some fun and traditional ways to drink sake?
Alfredo Martinez: “We try to remind ourselves all the time about the cultural aspects of drinking sake. One of the things that we talk about during our Sushi Sake 101 classes that are happening on October 21st is you never pour your own drink.
If we go out for dinner and we’re drinking sake, I grab the bottle, I pour a sake to you and I wait for you to pour sake back at me. It’s a little bit of a hospitality tradition. Obviously, there’s many different ways to drink sake – hot, cold, in cocktails and what not. Obviously, the most popular one is hot sake. We try to have people try different ways of drinking sake.
Foods That Pair Well With Sake
Candie Anderson: What are some foods that pair the best with it?
Alfredo Martinez: “A lot of people think it’s just Japanese food. In October, for example, we created a spiked sake roll. It’s marinated tuna with sake and different types of tuna on top. That’s paired with a Nigori sake which is a bit sweeter. It really goes well with anything, so you can try hot sake with grilled meats for example; sparkling sake goes great with tempura. The delicate more elegant sake goes great with Sashimi and Inari.
Inspiration Behind The Spiced Sake Roll
Candie Anderson: What inspired you to invent the spiced sake roll?
Alfredo Martinez: “It’s really a celebration of our birthday, RA Sushi is turning 21 years old in October. October marks the start of brewing season in Japan, so we wanted to have a full-on celebration and just honor the special beverage.
Our chefs put together the food we paired with sake and it’s really a celebration of our birthday with a celebration of rice.”
How To Roll Sushi
Candie Anderson: What is the process and skill needed for rolling sushi?
Alfredo Martinez: When you come to our classes you’ll see that the most important things are the ingredients and how to prepare some of these ingredients. We take it very lightly and we take an approach of social events, so you can bring friends and have a good time.
Basically to become a sushi chef you need years of experience learning to select fish, cleaning the fish, cut the fish. We take that work away from you and then we just put the ingredients in front of you and you can roll.
You’d be surprised how fast people learn how to roll once they have the right things in front of them.”
Alfredo Talks RA Sushi
Candie Anderson: Can you tell us about your restaurant?
Alfredo Martinez: “RA Sushi is turning 21 years old. We have 22 locations across the U.S. We are high energy, very vibrant sushi operation. I would say half of our menu is very traditional, the other half we go wild. In October we’re going to have one dollar sake shots. Again, we just really want people to celebrate.
RA Sushi is really a fun way to experience sushi, sake and in general some element of Japanese cuisine and culture.”
The Proper Way To Toast With Sake
Candie Anderson: What is the proper way to toast someone on World Sake Day?
Alfredo Martinez: “We love when people get together and toast and say kanpai. Kanpai literally translates to cheers in English. When you go to our restaurant, you take a photograph and you tag us saying kanpai, then you get a chance to win thousands of dollars in gift certificates.
Every time you’re toasting with sake, you say kanpai.”
Sake Is Gluten-Free, Sulfite Free and Tannin-Free
Candie Anderson: Do you have any additional tips or information that you’d like to share?
Alfredo Martinez: “We’d love to talk about the versatility of sake. A lot of people don’t realize that it’s also gluten-free, sulfite free and tannin-free, so people who have any kind of intolerance to any of these things, sake is a great way to go. We just encourage people to try different kinds and they’ll be very pleasantly surprised with the results.”
How To Find More Information On RA Sushi
Candie Anderson: Where can we all go for more information?
Alfredo Martinez: “You can visit our website www.rasushi.com. You’ll see all the information about the celebratory month of October, World Sake Day and the classes that we have to learn how to roll sushi and learn about sake on October 21st.
ABOUT ALFREDO MARTINEZ
Alfredo Martinez is the director of beverage for Benihana Inc. which includes nearly 100 Japanese restaurants combined for Benihana, RA Sushi and Haru. He plans and manages the full range of beverage operations for the three brands, including the creation and launch of new items on all beverage menus and the selection of sake, wine, beer and liquor offerings for each brand’s guests. In addition to being certified as a Sake Specialist and Sake Advisor, Martinez completed a Culinary Program at the French Culinary Institute in Vancouver and is working towards his advanced Master Sommelier Certification. He lives in Cooper City, FL with his wife and two-year-old son.