The Unexpected Origins Of The Sake Bomb

While many cocktails come together with careful perfectionism, there's a jovial intrigue behind the more casual alcohol creations. Be it an eyeballed combination of rum and coke, or another freehand pairing of spirit and mixer, such drinking comes with a dose of throwback.

And for American college-aged drinkers, such nostalgic associations originated with the sake bomb. The drinking game is a group favorite that starts with everybody precariously placing a shot of sake on chopsticks over a beer. A loud and fun round of shouting and banging on the table edges the rice wine into the brew — then the entire concoction gets guzzled swiftly.

Sure, the drink isn't made to highlight flavor; there is no need to use a nice bottle of either liquid involved. And one won't find the ritual practice in Japan either, although both inebriants are popularly consumed there. Instead, it is believed that American military men created the drink during World War II, although it's impossible to confirm the exact origin. Needless to say, the drink was popularized by the American college crowd. 

Pick the right time and place for a round of sake bombs

Although there's nothing wrong with such a boisterous combination, the sake bomb should be reserved for specific contexts. It's perfectly applicable in a casual (especially college-oriented) restaurant or a dive bar but not so much in a traditional Japanese establishment.

In the island nation, the deft creation of sake is a valued cultural skill. The beverage is only consumed on its own, seldom even worked into cocktails. And it's not a full-proof liquor, so even referring to it as a shot is a bit of a misnomer. A sake bomb is all about quick inebriation without much consideration for the resultant flavor.

If flavor is what you're looking for, dress up the drink pairing by serving the two alcohols side-by-side. With so many palates available from both beverages, there are many potential flavor crossovers. For instance, an unfiltered and creamy nigori sake will pair beautifully with a robust stout. It's a more grown-up way to enjoy the two. But if you are feeling a throwback to the younger days, there is nothing wrong with purchasing some cheap sake and some even cheaper beer, then pounding the table away with your friends. In the appropriate setting, of course.