Translated by Jay Issei Karslake
Atsukan- Japanese Encyclopedia
Written by ニコ
One of the appeals of Japanese sake is that you can drink it hot or cold. Did you know there are various different types of "atsukan" (hot sake)? This article will introduce to you the features of atsukan.
Atsukan is one of the ways to enjoy Japanese sake. It's a way of drinking sake that's thought of very fondly. In most instances when you go to an izakaya, you can order an atsukan (hot sake) or a hiya (cold sake). This time we'll introduce to you the features of atsukan, which tastes great during the colder seasons.
The Way of Drinking called "Atsukan"
Atsukan refers to a way of drinking where you pour the Japanese sake into a ceramic container called tokkuri and heat the tokkuri from the outside.
The action of heating sake is called "kan wo tsukeru" or "okan" in Japanese.
Generally, Japanese sake is the alcohol of choice for atsukan, but there at times also shochu (distilled liquor) can be chosen. The tokkuri becomes hot too, that is why we use ceramic containers. The cup is called ochoko, and is also made of ceramic. You generally don't water it down with cold or hot water when heating it up.
The Beginnings of Atsukan
Making sake into atsukan is a drinking practice in Japan that's surprisingly old. It goes as far back as the Jomon period (before the 3rd century BC).
The sake is poured into a pointy earthenware, and stuck into hot ash to heat up. Atsukan broke through to commoners during the Edo period when it was mentioned in a book by a popular writer. From there it began to spread.
The Name of the Okan Chnages Depending on its Temperature?
The name of the type of okan changes depending on its temperature.
The taste and aroma of the various types of okan are different, so let's try as many as we can.
Its temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius and you don't feel it as hot. One can feel slightly the aroma of the Japanese sake.
It's 35 degrees Celsius and you can feel that it's warm when you touch it. A pleasant aroma of rice or malted rice is coming out.
It's 40 degrees Celsius and at a point where it's not hot. Its aroma is flowing out.
It's 45 degrees Celsius and steam comes out when poured. You can feel its aroma as intense.
It's 50 degrees Celsius and the steam coming out of the tokkuri feels hot. The aroma becomes sharp and has a nice spicy taste.
It's 55 degrees Celsius and feels hot when you hold the tokkuri. It has a sharp aroma and even a stronger, spicier taste.
How to Make Delicious Atsukan
Atsukan can be made at home. It'll take time to master the technique, but it is a very pleasant way to enjoy mellow scented, hot Japanese sake. You will be able to make the okan with a good aroma, without breaking the sake's original flavor. Do try making this.
1. Pour the sake into the tokkuri until it becomes almost full. If you wrap up the mouth of the tokkuri in this instance, the aromatic components from the sake won't escape.
2. Prepare a pot and put in water. Put in the tokkuri in the pot and adjust the amount of water, so that half the tokkuri is soaking in water.
3. After taking out the tokkuri, bring the water in the pot to boil. Stop the fire after it begins boiling.
4. Put the tokkuri into the pot with the stopped fire. Heat it up there for around 2-3 minutes.
5. When the sake comes up to the mouth of the tokkuri, the atsukan is complete.
For those who want to drink atsukan immediately, you can heat it up in a microwave. Wrap the tokkuri, heat it up for around 40 seconds and it becomes an atsukan. However, in the microwave heater, the sake will heat up unevenly, so you should take it out after 20 seconds and shake the atsukan. After that, you heat it up again for 20 seconds. You can of course adjust the temperature of the atsukan to your liking.
Some people like to drink atsukan during the extremely hot summer days, but atsukan tastes best in winter, so the season for atsukan is coming up. When drinking Japanese sake, do try atsukan!