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In Japan, People Get Drunk on Sake Jelly

Sake Jelly is a new trend in Japanese drinks.

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Timothy Sullivan

For many Americans, Jell-O brings back feelings of childhood nostalgia. But in Japan, the love for gelatin desserts stretches well into adulthood. One classic, beloved and ubiquitous sweet in Japan is coffee jelly. Think, a simple concoction of coffee, gelatin and sugar, usually served cubed and topped with cream.  

Not to be outdone by coffee and in an attempt to reach more customers, Japanese sake brewers have recently entered into the game, producing a relatively new product: Sake Jelly. And it's exactly as its name suggests. Imagine a drink that pours out like a soft jelly, is mostly clear, sweet and usually has a low alcohol content around 1.5 percent, although certain brands go higher. Some cans bear labels that advise imbibers to shake 20 times before opening to break up the jelly, while others advocate consumption by spoon.

Images via Axas Co, The Hiroshima Brand

One premium sake brewery that has a branded sake jelly is Hiroshima’s Kamotsuru Brewery. Kamotsuru was prominently featured in the news last year when Japanese Prime Minister Abe was photographed pouring Kamotsuru sake for President Obama while dining at Sukiyabashi Jiro. Kamotsuru supplies their sake to a third party confectionary company, Baken Mozart Corporation, who manufactures their sake jelly along with other sake brands from Hiroshima Prefecture. Though Kamotsuru Brewery's sake jelly comes unflavored, other brands add in fruit like Ozeki's Ikezo Peach version ($4/can).

Thanks to its sweetness, sake jelly works well as a post-meal dessert drink that can be chilled or frozen for a slushie-like consistency. Another option is to pour sake jelly over aromatic chilled sake to emphasize and heighten the jelly’s sake flavor.

Since sake jelly is not yet widely available in the US, here's a recipe to make your own. And keep in mind, experimenting with different kinds of sake will yield a wide variety of tastes.

Sake Jelly
2 1/2 cups water, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 packets unflavored gelatin
1 1/4 cups sake (a fragrant ginjo or daiginjo works well)

Heat 2 cups water in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
In a bowl dissolve 2 packets unflavored gelatin with remaining ½ cup of cold water.  Stir to dissolve.  Let sit until gelatin has consistency of applesauce, about 4 minutes.
Pour softened gelatin into warm sugar water mixture and stir to combine. Add sake and stir. Allow to heat through.
Divide between bowls and chill in refrigerator until set, about 3 hours.

Image via The Hiroshima Brand

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