In Honolulu, a chance to sip premium sakes — almost 500 of them

Sake is growing in popularity outside of Japan, a fact that will be amplified in Honolulu at a celebration honoring the rice-based alcoholic beverage.

The sales of the beverage have grown by about 8% since 1994, Forbes reported.

You will have your choice of 478 premium sakes for tasting during the Joy of Sake on July 27 at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Sake has its roots in fermented rice beverages made in Japan as early as 300 B.C. It may have as much as 18% alcohol.

The first Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii in the 1860s, toiling on sugar plantations in often-harsh conditions. About 14% of Hawaii’s residents are of Japanese ancestry, according to the 2010 Census.


Today, using a “cold chain” to ensure freshness, the recently bottled sakes are, a news release said, “at their optimal flavor, aroma and balance.”

Of the nearly 500 varieties, 134 were awarded gold stars for their exceptional quality during the U.S. National Sake Appraisal last month in Honolulu. The appraisal, its website says, is the “oldest appraisal conducted outside Japan.”

More than half the sakes to be sampled July 27 are not distributed in the U.S.

The event will run from 6:30-9 p.m. and will include a festive “Izakaya Alley,” with 21 Honolulu restaurants serving their takes on Japanese/Asian street food.

The restaurants and their offerings include:

The Pig & The Lady: carrot and buttermilk panna cotta with lemon, mint, sugar snap peas and nuoc cham dipping sauce.

The Brilliant Ox: roasted pork belly with chili garlic sauce and puffed rice furikake seasoning.

Koko Head Cafe: Zosui, a Japanese rice porridge with heart of palm, hoio ferns, mushroom and egg.

Tickets cost $105-$155. Guests must be 21 or older.