Japanese sake is an incredibly unique beverage, one with deeply rooted traditions and variety unlike any other alcoholic beverage on this planet. Unbeknownst to the beginner and even average sake drinker, there is a customary and established method that Japanese society has been using for generations to consume the fragrant alcoholic rice brew we have come to adore. Concepts like serving temperature, how to pour, and which kind of cup to use are all vital parts of learning how to properly drink sake.
Traditionally, different types of sake (Junmai, Nigori, Junmai Daiginjo) require you to either chill the beverage, or warm it. Many avid sake drinkers’ experiment with temperatures to bring out different taste notes and fragrances, and for the most part, breweries give their own recommendations on if their brew should be warmed or chilled. Serving temperatures can make or break a sake tasting experience, so reading labels and following brewery guidelines are very important details you should be aware of. Whether you are consuming hot or cold sake, there are traditional Japanese guidelines for sake pouring etiquette. They are as follows.
- When offering sake, you must be aware of others needs first. If one of your guest’s cups is less than a third full, you may offer a refill.
- Pour the sake holding the bottle with both hands, using your left to stabilize the bottom of the bottle. When your guest is ready for more of the beverage, pour the sake until it reaches the top of the cup.
- When receiving sake, finish whatever is left in your cup before a new pour. Once your cup has been filled, take a small sip before putting the cup back down.
There is an alternative option for serving sake as well. Known as masu, these small wooden boxes were used to measure rice portions in Japan during the feudal period. In modern times, they are used as cups themselves and also as a container for ceramic and porcelain sake cups.
Speaking of sake cups, sake is traditionally consumed in small ceramic cups called “ochoko.” Not only do avid sake drinkers use these small circular cups to enhance the taste profile of the brew, these shot glass-like cups have become a staple of sake culture. Sake Social has partnered with Asemi Co. to offer some of the most beautiful and modern handcrafted Japanese sake cups available in the United States.