Enjoying Japanese Sake

Enjoying Japanese Sake

Enjoying Japanese Sake at various temperatures

Perhaps there is no other alcoholic beverage other than sake that can be enjoyed in a wide range of temperatures. That range is from 5°C (41°F) to 55°C (131°F), enabling one to drink it hot or cold, and sometimes to even enjoy it on the rocks or frozen. It is said that the taste of sake changes subtly by increases or decreases in the temperature of cold sake or hot sake, and even at room temperature, one can discover the unnoticed charm that is Japanese sake.

Enjoying warm or hot sake

It is said that warm or hot sake was enjoyed in the old days among the nobles from as far back as the Heian era, made its way to the ordinary citizens of Japan in the middle Edo period (Genroku period) with the general spread of "Seto style" small sake cups ("guinomi") and larger sake jars ("tokkuri") and became a nationwide custom from the Meiji period.

When Japanese sake is made warm or hot, the taste of the sake becomes deeper, and it is possible to feel the flavor which differs from that of sake consumed at room temperature. In addition, as the temperature is increased the effect of the alcohol also increases, and the taste becomes somewhat dry. Even in taste carried out at HAKUTSURU, results showed about a 2-degree greater dryness for the value of the "sake meter value ('Nihonshu-do')." Let's say that warm or hot sake is ideal for food flavored with soy sauce such as "sushi" and raw fish ("sashimi"). Generally speaking, warm sake is suited to cold and plain foods, and hot sake is suited to hot pot ("nabe") dishes and foods made with a lot of oil and fat.

Enjoying Warm or Hot "Sake"
How to make Delicious Warm or Hot "Sake"

Photo:Yoshikatsu Saeki

 How to make delicious warm or hot sake

There are various ways to make warm or hot sake, but the best way is in hot water. It has been said that the number one way to enjoy warm or hot sake is to put sake into a sake jar ("tokkuri"), place the sake jar into a pot of hot water (of about 98°C (208°F)) and then to heat the sake to the desired temperature (never boil sake). The standard is to look into the sake vessel and if there are small bubbles swelling up, then the sake is considered warm (about 40°C (104°F)), or if the bubbles immediately rise to the surface, then the sake is considered hot (50°C (122°F)). The standard time for leaving the sake vessel in the hot water is about 2 to 2.5 minutes for 180ml ("ichigo"). The sake is poured into a small sake cup ("ochoko") or a larger sized cup ("guinomi") and consumed.

Time standard for delicious warm or hot sake

Time standard for delicious warm or hot sake (when the heated sake is made with boiled water of about 98°C (208°F))

Enjoying Chilled sake

The temperature at which to drink cold sake is about 8°C (46°F). In the middle of summer, however, some people prefer to drink sake below 5°C (41°F). When the temperature is high, cold products are felt to be delicious, and in this light, the subtle aroma of Japanese sake gives a richness to the taste. In particular, because the smell of fresh sake and a sharp taste are characteristic of delicious draft sake, it harmonizes wonderfully when adjusting to light sweet and sour foods. In addition, cold sake will even wash away the lingering aftertaste of oily foods.

We recommend sake be consumed in a small way, i.e., in mouthful units, such as with a small elegant glass, wine glass or crystal.

Enjoying Chilled "Sake"

Photo:Yoshikatsu Saeki

Glossary

joukan hot sake (around 50 degrees C (122 degrees F))
nurukan Warm sake (around 40 degrees C (104 degrees F))
hitohadakan lukewarm sake (around 35 degrees C (95 degrees F))
jouon sake served at room temperature
reishu degrees F)) chilled sake (5 degrees C (41 degrees F) to around 8 degrees C (46
kanzake hot or warm sake