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Sparkling Sake: The Champagne of...Well, Sakes

Do you still get night terrors from that one time your friend made you take a shot of hot sake at her favorite sushi place and it made you gag from the weird taste and acute burning sensation?

Don't let your traumatized virginal palate cause you to swear off sake forever. If you can handle champagne and wine coolers (and if you can't, you really ought to stay away from alcohol), then you ought to give sparkling sake a shot (pun intended).

Sparkling sake is much easier to swallow than the regular stuff. Because fermentation is halted earlier than usual (to retain some sweetness), the alcohol content is about half that of "normal" sakes (5-10 percent rather than the usual 18-20 percent).

For that reason, sparkling sake is also quite a bit sweeter than normal sake. The carbonation makes it reminiscent of champagne, but even softer and sweeter (a more natural sweetness than your Zimas or Mike's Hard Lemonades, of course).

Most sparkling sakes generally cost between $5 and $20 for a 300mL bottle. We've seen it on the menu at several "better" sushi restaurants in the Valley, and recently purchased one (a 250mL bottle of Nigorizake Sawa Sawa for $4.69 from Tempe's Fujiya Market) to sip at home while watching Snooki fail at finding love on the "Jersey Shore."

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