Japanese Guide to drinking sake 

Known commonly as nihonshu in Japan, sake comes in a range of flavour profiles and proofs that can be enjoyed hot, cold or at room temperature. Since sake is so important to the nation, a rich set of customs surround its consumption and production.

Before we understand how to drink sake, let’s get to know the benefits of drinking sake. 

  • Moisturizes the skin: Sake is rich in moisturizing elements such as glycerol, or glycerine, and amino acids that are often used in cosmetics as they have moisturizing properties.
  • Smoother skin: Sake has been used as a skin toner for centuries in Japan. This is because Sake contains plenty of saccharides and amino acids which are now used as cosmetic ingredients. Sake contains α-Ethyl Glucoside which treats rough skin by gently exfoliating it.
  • Preserves youthful skin: Sake contains antioxidants called Ferulic acids that have an anti-aging effect. Ferulic acids in Sake are a powerful UV light absorber, preventing skin aging. 

Now that we know how beneficial sake is, here comes the fun part: drinking the sake! The most common questions we hear from sake beginners are:

  • Should you drink sake cold, warm, or at room temperature?
  • What kind of cup or glass should you drink it out of?
  • To Chill or not to Chill?

There is no hard-and-fast rule, and the most important considerations are the particular sake in question and your own preferences.

Some sake is at its best cold, while others taste perfect when warmed. Every sake is different, and sake connoisseurs will tell you to experiment. Our philosophy is: Do what tastes best to you. It’s no fun if you’re worried about whether what you’re doing is right or wrong.

That being said, here are some general guidelines to help you in knowing whether to cool or warm sake:

  • Ask the shop or restaurant staff for their recommendation: They will know whether it is best cold, warm, or either way.
  • Avoid extremes: Whether chilling or warming, be careful not to overdo it, since overheating and over-chilling can disrupt a sake’s particular flavors and aromas.
  • If warming, don’t heat the sake directly. Rather, pour the sake into a receptacle (like a sake carafe, ideally) that can handle some heat, and then heat it very gradually in a water bath. Avoid heating it too quickly or too intensely (definitely don’t do it in a microwave!).
  • Many sake varieties taste great at different temperatures — as different temperatures draw out distinctive characteristics — which makes it worthwhile to experiment for yourself.

The best way to really gain an appreciation for and understanding of sake is to drink it. So get out there and taste some sake — you may be surprised to find you have a particular type, style, and temperature you like best.