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Stepping into Spring with Sakeby Julie Goldstein, Bull and Buddha

According to folklore, around 4800 B.C. a natural airborne yeast soared into an uncovered container of rice. The mixture began to ferment, resulting in a curious alcohol, and the people of China began to drink the concoction. Although the beverage was first born in China, Japan is responsible for popularizing and mass-producing sake; therefore the impression prevailed that it was first created by the Japanese.

Sake is mystifying to the larger population of consumers who are unsure of what exactly sake is or how to drink it. Is sake more closely related to wine or beer? Most would guess wine (sake’s alcohol content is similar); contrary to belief, sake is a relative of beer because of its brewing process. Another misunderstanding about sake is that it should be served hot. Conversely, sake is best served cold—and by someone other than the drinker. It is considered improper sake etiquette to pour yourself a cup. This practice adds the notion of relaxation to the sake sipping experience.

Fairly new to the United States, acceptance and consumption of sake is growing (its intake is rapidly decreasing in Japan, where people are drinking more beer and hard liquor) as premium sake brewers emerge. Premium sake, or Junmai, is brewed using solely rice, water, yeast, and koji (a portion of steamed rice blended with mold). The sake-making process is very specific for this particularly pure style. In fact, it is regulated by Japanese liquor law, much akin to the parameters of France’s finest Champagne. The best sake brewers use polished rice, which is simply milled white rice, for a more delicate flavor. The rice is then washed and steamed. A portion is mixed with the koji and rejoined with the rice, yeast and water. An additional amount of rice is combined, and the fermentation process takes on the mixture and action, ultimately transforming the mixture into sake. Sakes of inferior quality have the addition of distilled alcohol, formulating a more astringent beverage. These poorer sakes are the ones typically served hot in order to mask the sharpness.

More recently, sake increasingly is being featured in cocktails. This is no surprise as the subtly floral flavors of sake are a crisp complement to a multitude of spirits and juices. Premium sakes are known for the perfect balance of sweetness and dryness, thus making sake the perfect potion to stir up in a refreshing cocktail.

Now that spring is upon us, Bull and Buddha created a refreshing Asian twist on the traditional margarita to quench the heat of the warmer days. The subtle sweetness of the pear and the slight tartness of the lime juice are harmoniously balanced with the crispness of the sake.

Bull and Buddha restaurant fuses an urban interior with exotic design elements of the East nestled in Poughkeepsie’s revitalized downtown. Served under the watchful eye of a hand-carved two-ton Buddha, the Asian-themed menu reflects the bounty and diversity of the Hudson Valley: an inspired dining experience in a chic yet casual setting. Bull and Buddha is located at 319 Main St., Poughkeepsie,, 845.337.4848. Open Mo-Th 11:30 AM-10 PM, Fr/Sa 11:30 AM-1 AM, Sunday Brunch 11 AM-8 PM. Closed 3-5 PM except Su.

Bull and Buddha’s Pear Sake Margarita:

This recipe yields one margarita—multiply it for your next party.

2 oz. pear puree
1 oz. triple sec
2 oz. sake
.5 oz. sour mix
Half of a lime, juiced

Pour the pear puree into a glass. Pour in the sake. Add the triple sec, lime juice, and sour mix. Garnish with a lime wedge.

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