SAKE NIGHTS: A MIX OF OLD AND NEW NYC SPOTS
For those nights you want to sip sake—either neatly or in a bespoke drink (and preferably chilled), check out this list of Far East institutions starring the hip Japanese rice-based wine. From unassuming, subterranean spots to moody, members-only dens, and a surprising Brooklyn newcomer, it’s easy to transport yourself to Tokyo sans the plane ticket.
For your Lost in Translation moment, head downstairs to this slightly punk rock, red-hued East Village bar (est. 1993) for a well-curated, 100-bottle sake list including a floral-forward Junmai Ginjo Takumi, and cloudy, unfiltered varietals like Crazy Milk. Also on tap: a smattering of Lucky Cats among aged Japanese whiskey bottles and the adventurous spirit Shochu. Hungry? Nibble on Wasabi Shumai, a plate of wasabi dumplings with pork.
240 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003; T. (212) 979-2733
In the East Village, find an intimate East-meets-West experience at this composed dimly-lit venue—whose name comes from a fashionable term from the Japanese Jazz Age. Serving hot coffee by day (alongside omurice and katsu sandwiches) and discerning sake pours by night, try the crisp-meets-dry Kubota Koju or graduate to highly-touted bottles a la the elegant, sharp Taiten Shiragiku.
214 E 10th St, New York, NY 10003; T. (212) 777-7018
Housed in a building once belonging to Andy Warhol, this members-only Japanese bar (and the sibling to a small, Tokyo-based empire) is reached by a phone number or referral (don’t ask us how to get that, we’re merely the messengers but you can plead your case here). Inside, a swanky Zen palate of white walls and chic lounges afford the perfect setting for those lucky enough to sip Asian-flared cocktails and sake glasses.
57 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012
Looking for a destination spot? Venture out to Industry City for this exciting newcomer. Dubbed as an American sake brewery and taproom, thanks to its use of native ingredients, this cheery, graphic-focused room with minimalist paper orb lighting serves up refreshing, floral and light-bodied sips such as its Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu. “Sake is a perfect summer drink,” says Co-Founder and President Brian Polen. “The best sakes in the world are meant to be served chilled and enjoyed like a crisp white wine. On hot summer days, we recommend our signature #14 Junmai Ginjo. A tap room favorite, it is light-bodied and floral. It pairs well with a broad range of summer foods, from lobster rolls to charcuterie, and is a perfect sipping sake.” If you’re inclined, take a bottle home.
68 34th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232; T. (347) 766-1601
Since 1994, this tiny East Village neighborhood bar, outfitted with Polaroids, rotating art pieces and red fringed lighting, has been delivering chilled glasses of sake in lacquer boxes (go ahead, try the well-balanced Tedorigawa Arabishiri Kinka “Gold Blossom”) while hungry patrons nosh on small, elevated bar snacks like the house-made Squid Jerky and veggie buns.
202 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009; T. (212) 614-0933
One more for good measure: Inside the relaxed Ludlow Street lounge, SakaMai you’ll find shareable plates and specialty sake including a plum-forward, 17-year-old aged Junmai Ginjo, and bespoke cocktails created by the venerable spirit master Shingo Gokan.
Words Kate Donnelly