Sake is a staple of Japanese cuisine and rice wine comes in a great variety of colors and tastes. One of the most popular types of sake is unfiltered sake but what is nigori sake and what does it taste like?
This Japanese rice wine has a cloudy texture with a gentle, sweet flavor. You can even taste a subtle rice aroma. In this article, we find out what nigori sake is, its distinctive characteristics and what food you can enjoy this tasty beverage with.
What Is Nigori Sake?
Nigori is a cloudy sake that still contains some rice sediment. In Japanese, “nigori” translates as “cloudy” which is exactly what nigori rice sake looks like.
It has the appearance of white clouds floating in a bottle. The white color is undissolved rice that remains after the fermentation process. Nigori sake, also often referred to as unfiltered sake, can be sparkling or still, thick or thin, sweet or dry.
There is a great choice of various nigori sake varieties.
Is Nigori Sake Unfiltered Sake?
While “nigori” is sometimes translated as “unfiltered” in English, nigori sake is roughly filtered rice wine. During the brewing process, the sake is partially filtered through a coarse cloth which leaves some of the rice sediment remains in the drink.
Although nigori sake isn’t actually unfiltered sake, there are types of sake that are fully filtered, such as Doburoku.
What Is Nigori Sake Made Of?
Nigori sake is made in the same way as clear sake, known as sumizake. It even contains the same ingredients. However, the difference between clear sake and nigori sake is the straining method.
Sake brewers use a coarse cloth with small holes in it to strain the liquid. This allows small particles of rice to remain in the final sake product. The rice particles give nigori sake its distinctive texture, flavor and color.
Some sake brewers also press the sake to make clear sake. They can then use the leftover liquid and sake kasu to make cloudy sake.
What Does Nigori Sake Taste Like?
The sake lees that create the unique color in nigori sake also give this type of rice wine an individual flavor. While nigori sake still tastes similar to ginjo-style sake, the rice lees allow the flavors of the rice to come out much more.
Nigori sake can have a complex aroma profile. It is sweet but also dry which makes it an ideal rice wine for food with umami flavors.
Plus, nigori also has a slight texture but it’s unusually creamy, thanks to the rice kasu. Some brewers even leave residual sugar in their sake to make it slightly sweeter and thicker.
What Is The Alcohol Content Of Nigori Sake?
The alcohol content of nigori sake can be between 12% and 17%. This is similar to other wines but slightly less than clear sake which can have an ABV of up to 20%.
Food That Pairs Well With Nigori Sake
Just like crystal clear sake, nigori sake pairs combines well with a great variety of Asian dishes, especially spicy Asian food. This being said, it also works well with Western-style foods, such as Mac and Cheese, a cheeseburger or chicken wings.
The complex flavors of nigori sake mean that you can pair this rice wine with subtle savory dishes but also with fiery food from China, Korea, Japan and other Asian countries.
Nigori’s mild sweetness is perfect for serving creamy desserts, from delicious cheesecake and vanilla ice cream to sumptuous chocolate cake.
What Is The Best Serving Temperature For Nigori Sake?
The best serving temperature for nigori sake is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that you can keep your nigori sake in the refrigerator and serve it fridge-cold.
Just make sure that you treat nigori with care. It is a sensitive drink, so only title the bottle gently and don’t shake it. This allows the rice lees inside the bottle to wake up but it doesn’t ruin the flavor of the rice wine.
Should You Mix Nigori Sake?
No, nigori sake doesn’t need to be mixed to enjoy a glass of this delicious rice wine. Simply tilt the bottle slightly but don’t shake it. This allows the sediments at the bottom to move around the bottle again and you can get the full aroma of the sake.
What Is The Difference Between Normal Sake And Nigori Sake?
Just looking at nigori sake and regular sake, you can see that nigori is a cloudy liquid while normal sake is crystal clear.
This cloudy appearance of nigori also affects its flavor which is a slight umami and sweet aroma. This being said, you may also notice some rice and cereal notes.
Another difference between nigori sake and standard sake is their alcohol content. Nigori sake usually has a slightly lower ABV than normal sake.
However, it is good to keep in mind that both nigori sake and regular clear sake can vary in alcohol content, palette and flavor depending on the sake brand and brewing process.
What Is The Difference Between Doburoku And Nigori Sake?
Although nigori sake is sometimes referred to as unfiltered sake, it is actually filtered through a coarse cloth to allow some rice sediments to end up in the final sake.
Doburoku is fully unfiltered sake and it has the same cloudy appearance as nigori. However, the filtering method during the brewing process is different.
Unlike nigori, doburoku sake is not strained or filtered in any way. This makes it one of the most original types of sake.
In addition to their equal appearance, doburoku and nigori sake are similar in flavor. Both have a creamy texture with hints of sweet rice, porridge and vanilla.
These types of cloudy sake have a complex aroma that combines well with a great variety of Asian dishes.
Nigori sake has a beautiful white color and creamy texture that pairs well with a variety of Asian and Western-style foods.