I had never heard of sake bomb until I started working at Rock ‘n’ Hollywood Sushi. Who would think of putting hot sake (in a sake glass) into a cold beer and drink together? Just like the California Roll, Sake Bomb, is American Invention, or maybe it came from Japan? At least, I’ve never had one in Japan until I became a sushi chef in LA.
If you’ve never seen or done Sake Bomb before, just look for a video on Youtube: there are plenty of it. To do Sake Bomb, first pour cold beer in a tall glass, place chopsticks over the rim of the beer glass, and put sake glass filled with warm sake on the chopsticks. Then you and everyone shout, “Sake Bomb Sake Bomb Sake Bomb” and hit the table hard enough so that the sake glass drops into the glass of beer. Once you observe the dropping of the sake glass, you quickly pick up the beer glass, and drink as fast as you can. That’s it.
The inventor of the Sake Bomb seems to remain unknown. Some sources (LA Magazine) sights that soldier in Japan during WWII came up with Sake Bomb, while “it occurred late one evening in Manhattan when some Japanese businessmen watched several locals drinking “boiler makers” and tried it with sake,” according to True Sake.
Either case, Sake Bomb is not something many Japanese or I would enjoy, especially if you love sake. Sake lovers would drink sake slowly, enjoy the deep aroma and flavor of rice and water, so they would never think of a way to spoil it all by dumping and mixing it with beer. Would you mix a great glass of French Wine with beer? If you love wine or beer, I’d imagine you would never think of doing that and chug it down your throat.
Generally speaking, sake served hot is of those inferior qualities. Some medium grade sake is served hot during winter in Japan. When heated, some alcohol evaporates and makes the sake milder, so heating up cheap sake makes it tastes a bit better.
Weekend nights were what I referred as “amateur nights,” where many Valley boys (viewed as people who cannot live in “happening” metro LA area, thus, not “hip), Orange County chicks (easy going, beach bunnies weekend party goers), and Inland Empire Latino Amigos (living in far out from LA and where the “happening things happen, but they want to be associated with “happening” Hollywood people, so they come to mingle with happening people, but the truth is, the real “happening” people party elsewhere) show up, eat sushi and drink large bottles of Sapporo Beer and do lots of lots of sake bombs.
I have no idea who taught them, or who said this and for some reason, many sushi restaurant patrons think that as soon as they walk into the restaurant, they should greet and buy drinks to the sushi chefs. Perhaps, they consider buying a drink to the chef as Japanese custom? Are they trying to “buy us off”?
In Japan, not every customer offers sushi chefs a drink. Only guests, who offer to buy a drink, are the regulars and regulars who know the chef really well and as such, it’s like buying a drink for your friend. Until such relationship is established between the customer and the chef, it will be impolite and inconsiderate to offer a chef a drink. There is almost never an exchange of glasses between a customer and a sushi chef if they met for the first time.
So, offering to buy a drink at a restaurant you visited for the first time, and to a chef whom you never met, is NOT a Japanese tradition, unless of course, you are in American and at a rock ‘n roll sushi joint on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, it happened almost every day.
Even though it was not a Japanese custom, all of the sushi chefs did not mind customers offering to buy us a beer. After all, we were making California Rolls and Spicy Tuna Rolls, which were American inventions and becoming like the Apple Pie of American Japanese food.
All the chefs liked when customers asked us what we wanted to drink. We hated when they decided to buy hot sake because hot sake was the cheap kind: no nice aroma, no nice flavor, no sweetness, just a taste and strong aftertaste of alcohol. Just horrible experience.
We liked occasional Sapporo because it was made in Japan and not like other Japanese beers made in Canada under licensed brewery. Made in Canada Japanese beer tasted inferior to the made in Japan Japanese beer and Sapporo was the only one made in Japan, so anytime we could, we requested Sapporo.
More than anything, what we hated the most was when the customers, usually young Valley boys type, ordered sake bombs without asking us if we wanted to drink or not, and a waitress brings us two shots each. They thought they were doing us a favor or think that it was tradition to do a sake bomb, thinking we would actually enjoy it?
On weekends, we worked till 2 AM and to get drunk before midnight and keep making sushi standing on your feet for 10 hours was not something none of us wanted to do. We had to pace ourselves. So, ordering drinks without consulting us was, sometimes, not so considerate. At the same time, we knew that the restaurant made more money on drinks, and more beer meant more tips to the waitresses, and more tips to the waitress meant more tips to the sushi bar, so we really could not say “No” because, eventually, it benefited everyone of us in the restaurant. It was, after all, entertaining the guests.
Looking back now, I can say thank God the restaurant only served beer and sake. If they served hard liquor, we’d be doing tequila and Jagermeister shots, who knew what would have happened.
I am really sorry that I have nothing good to say about Sake bomb. I have nothing against those how to like to do sake bombs. Sure, when I was younger, I did lots of drinking in a similar way: drunk alcohol just for the sake of getting drunk. By the way, does anyone have a good positive story relating to Sake bomb or doing shots of Jägermeister? I didn’t think so.
The worst time to offer sake bomb to a sushi chef is on a busy weekend night, because, we have to stop our hands, break chopstick into half, lay them on the glass rim, place a cup of sake and say, “Sake Bomb Sake Bomb” and hit the table to drop the sake glass into the beer. During this time, we have to stop our hands making sushi, as more order tickets come out from the printer.
All sake bomb leaves are bad aftertaste, bad headache, and bad memory the morning after.