What I drink usually depends on the friends I am hanging out with at the moment. In Boston, my friends and I usually go to pubs and bars and order individual beers and cocktails. Back home in California, my friends prefer sharing pitchers of beers and spicing things up with bottles of Sake or Soju.
Quick Lesson on Sake:
Sake (not to be confused with Soju) is a Japanese rice wine made by fermentation. Unlike wine, the alcohol is is not produced from the sugar – the process is a little bit more like brewing beer. However, unlike beer which changes starch to sugar and then sugar to alcohol in two discrete steps, when sake is brewed, the conversion happens simultaneously. There are many different types of sake depending on the rice used, water used, starter mash, and how the sake is handled after fermentation. People enjoy sake both cold and hot. When drinking it, you may be tempted to shoot it like a shot, but many enjoy sake by sipping it. Learn more here!
Beer: 3% – 9% ABV
Wine: 9% – 16% ABV
Sake: 14% – 20% ABV
Soju: 16.7% – 45% ABV
BONCHON CHICKEN, ALLSTON, MA
Feeling homesick, I called up a couple of my friends who wanted to try soju and we went to BonChon Chicken in Allston. BonChon Chicken is a South Korean based franchise with over 100 locations worldwide. While it is South Korean based, their food leans more Asian Fusion style, and instead of Soju, they serve Sake. It was a Monday night, so we ordered a Sake Cocktail instead of 2 bottles of Sake. Sake Cocktails are usually an entire bottle of Sake + Flavored Mixer (usually a flavored Calpico). I usually prefer the Yogurt Sake, but the other girls insisted the Lychee Sake Cocktail was better. (It was).
When the bottle came out, it looked very small for what it cost ($17), but the 6 of us ended up having 2 – 3 cups each. The Sake Cocktail was very sweet and smooth, and it tasted even better with all the food we had.
BonChon Chicken is known for their chicken (my mouth is watering right now), and their Asian Fusion family-styled dishes. When you order the chicken, I recommend ordering half and half (soy garlic and spicy) because you can get the best of both worlds. Warning: the spicy is EXTREMELY spicy. In addition to their Fried Chicken (surprisingly very popular in Korea), we ordered Cotija Corn (Mexican fusion), Takoyaki (Japanese), Bulgogi (Korean), Seafood Pancake (Korean), and Budae Jjigae (Korean).
Total including all the food and alcohol plus tax + tips ended up being $20 per person. Not bad for a delicious dinner with sake.
SHIKI, BROOKLINE, MA
Surprise visit from a friend from home! To celebrate, we went to the cute but expensive restaurant across the street – Shiki.
According to my friend who is ethnically Japanese, this place is pretty authentic and offers an extensive list of sakes. Of all the options, we decided on Nigori (unfiltered sake). And of all the unfiltered sakes, we ordered the Ohyama Nigori Sake Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori – basically the fruity one that had “pear and apple aromas.” The writing on the bottle says that it is a “Special Pure Rice Wine” and that its ABV is around 14.5%. It was served chilled in a fancy wooden bucket with ice cubes and cost around $35. The sake had a smooth, clean taste and went down dangerously easily. I enjoyed 2 cups and my friend enjoyed around 7 cups.
We enjoyed the sake with fresh and delicious sashimi (raw slices of fish) and nigiri (raw slices of fish on rice balls).
Still hungry, we ordered an additional serving of salmon (also called sake!) nigiri.
This meal with drinks came out to around $120. Expensive, but delicious and perfect for a special occasion – such as a surprise visit from home!
Address: 9 Babcock St, Brookline, MA 02446