Warm sake. It's hard to think of anything more appealing on a cold winter evening. As we trudge through the depths of one of the coldest and snowiest winters Japan has seen in years, warming oneself from the core out with a glass or bottle of a well-chosen heated sake settles and soothes like nothing else.

Actually, warm sake has taken a bit of a rap lately. About 20 years ago, when ginjoshu began to come into its own, the long-held image of sake being served warm began to disintegrate. As most good ginjo is somewhat fragrant and delicate, warming it destroys precisely what it was brewed to exude, bludgeoning the subtleties into nonexistence.

So, hot sake soon became equated with cheap sake (not a totally unfounded correlation), and the notion that all good sake should be served chilled became almost an accepted fact. Eventually, though, things came full circle. There is plenty of premium sake that is absolutely wonderful warm. In fact, many brewers make sake with flavor profiles specifically suited to warming, and tell you so on the bottle.