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5 to Try: Courtney Kaplan’s Summer Sake Recs

With no sign of the weather cooling off any time soon, chances are you’ll be looking for refreshing alternatives to your usual summer go-tos. Fortunately, Courtney Kaplan of OTOTO sake bar in Los Angeles shares her picks for thirst-quenching sake, from a vermouth-inspired Junmai to togarashi-infused Umeshu, and her favorite ways to enjoy them.

Heiwa Shuzo Natsu Mikan Sake 

Heiwa is aiming to attract a younger generation of sake drinkers with compelling flavors. This brand-new low-alcohol sake is blended with mandarin juice and lemon zest, making it ideal for day drinking. “I like to make a tall drink with it by mixing it with sparkling water and lots of ice. It’s super refreshing on a hot day,” says Kaplan. $45, truesake.com

Tamagawa Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Genshu “Ice Breaker”

Break out the ice bucket when serving this seasonal summer sake. According to Kaplan, it’s “on the stronger side with slightly spicy notes because the brewer intended it to be poured over ice and diluted slightly in doing so.” $32, truesake.com

Shichida Natsu Junmai Namazume

Get your hands on this limited seasonal summer release while you still can as it will only be available for a few more months. “Heat and humidity are hallmarks of summer in Japan,” says Kaplan. “So, many brewers make special sake specifically for the season that are lighter and more refreshing.” Light and crisp with lower alcohol content, this Junmai is perfect for enjoying on warm days. $41, truesake.com

Ippongi Hannyatou Spicy Umeshu “Hot Devil”

“Japanese believe eating spicy food during the summer helps release toxins, so this is the beverage equivalent,” says Kaplan. The Hot Devil plum sake gets its name from the togarashi (a blend of Japanese chili peppers) infusion that gives it an intense spicy aftertaste. Kaplan recommends serving it over ice and pairing it with Korean BBQ. $24, truesake.com

Oka Kura Japanese Bermutto Sake Vermouth

Since this sake was inspired by vermouth, Kaplan recommends stirring it into a gin martini. Its Junmai sake base with yuzu, Sansho peppercorn, and kabosu citrus make it an aromatic and dry sipper. “Just pour some over a big rock, add a lemon twist, and suddenly you’re sipping an aperitivo on the Riviera (via Kyoto),” says Kaplan. $28.50, bittersandbottles.com

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