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From my experience and knowledge, I have realized that you need to pair the best of foods with the right drink in order to enjoy your meal to the fullest. There are good and bad beverages for sushi, just like there are for a delicious steak entrée.
What’s the best drink for sushi? The crisp Japanese lagers or beer makes the best pairing for sushi. Those who prefer a more sophisticated taste may enjoy white or sparkling wines (even red wine tastes great). Non-alcoholic drinks like green tea and citrus-based beverages also complement sushi perfectly.
When choosing a drink to go with sushi, you need to consider the different toppings and fillings used in the dish. Some ingredients might have a subtle taste while others like eel have a stronger flavor.
Another thing to remember is that you are not just dealing with raw fish but also various meats, vegetables, and fruits. Read on to find out more.
What Type Of Drinks Complements Sushi?
Your choice of drinks should complement the type of sushi roll you order. According to Japanese traditions, they usually serve water or Japanese beer with sushi. However, your options don’t end there. You can pair up practically any kind of drink with sushi as long as you keep a few rules in mind.
• Choose flavors that complement, not overpower the taste of sushi
• Pick a drink with similar acidic level (drink should be same or more acidic than food)
• Pair up spicy sushi rolls with sweeter drinks to balance the spiciness and heat
• Make sure weights/textures of drinks complement the sushi (light, medium, or heavy-bodied)
Keep in mind that Japanese culinary experience is about finding the right balance between food and drinks. This is the most essential aspect for sushi rolls and drinks pairings. With that in mind, let’s look at the different types of drinks that can accompany your incredible sushi experience.
Japanese Sake (Saa-kee) With Sushi
Sushi traditionalists may not approve of pairing sushi with sake because both come from rice. However, just because it is not traditional, does not mean you cannot pair sushi with sake. You may try paring both because the flavors of sake beautifully complement the taste of raw fish.
You may try Ginjo sake with salmon or Tuna to bring out the best flavors of the fish. Another good pairing is dry Junmai sake. If you wish to pair sake with sushi rolls, choose a less traditional roll such as Volcano roll. Here are some of my suggestions:
- Fruity and medium-bodied Ginjo sake accentuates the oils in a fatty salmon sushi roll.
- Light-bodied Ginjo sake perfectly goes with the spiciness of a tuna sushi roll.
- Aromatic and acidic Junmai ginjo sake perfectly complements the oily Yellowtail maki roll.
- Junmai ginjo sake tastes great with the heavy bodied and sweet flavor of crab in California roll.
- Daiginjo Sake complements the firm yet delicate flavor of Fluke (Hirami) sushi roll.
Pairing Beer With Sushi
When we talk about pairing beer with sushi, we immediately think about the traditional Japanese lager. However, if you are feeling adventurous, try out different types of beers to discover what suits your taste buds best.
As a rule, I would suggest sticking with lighter flavors of beer because both sushi and sashimi are delicate foods. Whether you eat sushi at a restaurant, opt for takeaway or make sushi at home(see useful tools), here are some of my recommendations for best beer for sushi:
One of my favorites is the Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace. It has a distinct lemongrass flavor with subtle tones of citrus and pepper, making it perfect for sashimi, sushi, and everything that accompanies it (eg. soy sauce, ginger, wasabi).
Next on the list is Good Juju, a clean and crisp beer with a hint of fresh ginger. If you don’t like chewing the pickled ginger served with sushi, you may try this beer instead. It perfectly complements sushi and cleans the palate after every bite.
Lighter beers like Spaten Helles have a snappy taste that perfectly complement the raw fish and sushi rice. If your roll includes tempura and mayonnaise, pair it up with a spicy German-style wheat beer that cuts the fat but not overpower the flavor.
Another good beer option is a hefeweizen, which is light and sweet to bring out the flavors of raw fish and balance the sharp taste of wasabi. If the sushi contains tobiko or roe, I would recommend the North German Pilsner that perfectly complements the buttery flavor.
Pairing Wine With Sushi
If you are planning a sushi dinner at home, there cannot be a better complementing drink than wine. It is fun to pair wine with different types of sushi rolls because the flavors complement each other. One piece of advice would be to stick with mild -tasting wines to prevent overpowering sushi. Here are some of my top recommendations:
Albarino wine has a hint of lime, lemon, blossom, and green peas. It is high on acidity and perfectly balances the oiliness of fried tempura sushi rolls.
Grüner Veltliner is an Austrian native with bursting flavors of green peas, white pepper, lime, and lemon. It is a perfect choice for Dragon Roll that contains crab, eel, avocado, cucumber, and eel sauce.
Provençal Rosé is red fruit dominated and has a bright and acidic tone. The light yet bright Rose perfectly complements the creamy avocado and delicious crab in a California roll(see recipe)
Pinot Noir is for the red win fans. With its light body and tannins, it makes a perfect pair for the different flavors of fish. I would suggest New Zealand Pinot Noir or the red Sancerre with a Philly roll.
German Reisling is just what you need to turn spicy tuna roll into an extravagant delight. This aromatic and highly acidic wine has sweet undertones that help balance the spiciness and heat of Sriracha sauce.
If you are a fan of uni (sea urchin), pair it up with the light-bodied Fino or Manzanilla Sherry. The brine salinity of these wines perfectly matches the smooth and nutty flavor of Uni or sea urchin.
Best Cocktails For Sushi
If you are hosting a sushi party at home, pair up the sushi rolls with the perfect cocktails for an incredible treat. I like the fact that cocktails help enhance the flavor of sushi rather than trying to overpower the taste. Cocktails made with fresh ginger go best with sushi and here are a few recommendations:
Acidic cocktails comprising of citrus and sherry help in balancing the oiliness and fat level of sushi rolls. The acid level helps in cutting the sweetness of rice and brings out the flavors of fish. I recommend Sour Cocktails and Sherry Cobbler.
Instead of counterbalancing the taste, try pairing an umami-sushi with an umami-rich cocktail. This can help you create an amazing outburst of flavors. My favorites for this category are Bloody Caesar, Dirty Martini, and Margarita.
Japanese whiskey that has been aged for years in a barrel has a distinct smokiness that perfectly complements the mackerel family. It helps in bringing out sweeter flavors of the fish. Some of my recommendations are Manhattan, Presbyterian, Japanese Highball, and Daiquiri.
If you are a fan of tuna, salmon, and shellfish containing sushi, pair them up with Gin cocktails. It works best for everything ranging from the fatty salmon and whitefish to tuna and beyond. Some of my recommendations are Southside, Gin & Tonic, Gin Rickey, and Tom Collins.
When unsure about what to order with sushi, stick to Champagne and Vodka. You can blend Martini with vodka to get a refreshing delight with a hint of ginger. Champagne also goes well with sushi, although it can be slightly richer and overpowering. I recommend French 75, Moscow Mule, and Vodka Martini.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks for Sushi
If you wish to cut down alcohol consumption, I have some amazing recommendations for non-alcoholic drinks that go well with sushi. These are easy to prepare at home and make a refreshing drink, so check them out.
Sweet orange and lemon water have a refreshing and slightly sweet taste that goes well with sushi roll containing tobiko (flying fish roe). It also helps in bringing out the flavor of salmon sushi rolls.
Apple and raspberry water burst with delicate fruity flavors that pair up wonderfully with meat or vegetarian sushi. Pair them with teriyaki chicken futomaki, cream cheese uramaki, or shredded duck temaki
Green tea like this is another classic brew that goes well with sushi and a variety of other Japanese cuisines. The subtle flavors combined with incredible health benefits make it a top choice in sushi restaurants around the world.
Pomegranate and blackcurrant water (see Amazon) have rich and fruity flavors that perfectly complement different types of sushi. From the smoky grilled eel to yellowtail sashimi, it adds a tasty tang that helps in cleansing the palate.
Related Article: Do Japanese Put Sugar In Green Tea?
Can you drink beer with sushi?
Yes, in fact, sake served in sushi restaurants or bars is a type of Japanese beer. Other varieties of beers also go well with sushi, however, I would recommend heavy-bodied beer with richer sushi and light-bodied for less-oily sushi.
Related Article: What Tea is Served at Sushi Restaurants?
Is red wine good to drink with sushi?
Yes, Red Burgundy has a higher level of acidity than a lighter wine. The acidity helps in cutting the oiliness and rich flavor of tuna or salmon sushi roll.
What do the Japanese drink with sushi?
In Japan, the sushi-ya or sushi bars traditionally serve green tea, fruit wine, or beer to complement the different courses of sushi.