If you’re looking for something to switch up your winter sipping routine, look no further than Salt Lake’s own Tsuki Sake. The first of its kind in Utah, Tsuki is infusing our spirit scene with cultural authenticity and delicious products to boot.
You might not expect sake and Utah to pair so well together, but Tsuki co-owner Jillian Watanabe saw potential for a match made in sake heaven. Her heritage as a half-Japanese Salt Lake local is what originally pushed her toward sake and Japanese cuisine, and as she says “one sip can change your life.” After learning about the unique traits of the spirit, like its terroir-like tendencies and connection to seasons, Watanabe found herself getting more excited to talk about sake. She gained the title of International Kikisake-shi after completing rigorous training from the Sake School of America.
The course taught her everything from the history of brewing methods to perfecting the pairing process—basically, Watanabe knows a shit-ton about sake.
Watanabe’s original goal was to travel to Japan and expand her knowledge of traditional sake brewing methods. But, of course, the world had other travel-inhibiting plans. While bound in the states, she connected with Executive Chef Kirk Terashima and Utah brewery alumni Ty Eldrige. The three shared a common interest in bringing a sake company to Salt Lake, and within a year Tsuki was created.
Tsuki’s namesake is owed to Watanabe’s wife, who suggested the name after Watanabe’s affinity for the moon. “It’s also a symbol of womanhood, femininity and power,” she says. When she pitched it to her business partners, they said the name was a fitting way to honor Watanabe as a female sake brewer—of which there are very few in the entire world.
The line currently carries two sakes: The Supermoon and White Peach Nigori. The Supermoon—renamed from the previous “Junmai Daigingo” to curb the occurrence of shoppers yelling “what’s this Jumanji business?!” at the liquor stores (really, Utah?)—is a premium-grade filtered sake with fruity notes and a bright finish. “Long story short, the rice polish ratio is what makes Supermoon a Daiginjo, and the only ingredients are water, rice, yeast and Koji which is what Junmai means,” Watanabe explains. Described as a “fruit salad on the nose,” she suggests pairing the sake with seafood like oysters, mussels and sushi.
When you’re in the mood for something sweeter, reach for the White Peach Nigori. Made with pure peach puree, it’s a thicker sake with a coral glow. “I wanted to kind of represent Utah with something that is local to the state, sort of a fusion between Japanese and Utah flavors,” Watanabe says. Don’t get it confused, White Peach is by no means the kind of flavored sake you’d order at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. The peach notes are prominent enough to give the sake some weight, but are subtle so they don’t overwhelm the palette. “It’s such a smooth sipper, and it goes awesome in a cocktail,” she says. “Anything with sparkling wine and honey simple syrup, or spicy flavors like Thai basil and habanero.”
Together, the sake duo have taken the city by storm and Tsuki only plans to get bigger. Watanabe has been on the lookout for a brick and mortar brewery to expand the business. She also wants to offer canned sakes. “We want something to compliment the Salt Lake lifestyle of going skiing or hiking, some pocket sake when you are out and about.” Imagine cracking open a can of cold sake while your friends shotgun beers in the resort parking lot—the ultimate power move.
As Salt Lake’s first-ever sake company, Tsuki is a delightful addition for sake enthusiasts and casual sippers alike. Look for their lunar label the next time you’re in the liquor store, just don’t ask the clerk where the Jumanji is.