How to enjoy sake

One of the most important things to remember is that sake is versatile and supportive of food.

Serving temperature

Sake can be served chilled, room temperature or warm. 

The serving temperature for sake depends on several factors like the season, the weather, the food pairing, one’s preferences, just to mention some. Generally speaking, sake types like junmai daiginjo and junmai ginjo are better served slightly chilled, as they are more delicate. Sturdier types of sake like honjozo or kimoto are delightful at room temperature and even when warmed up. 

As rule of thumb, when having raw or cold dishes (sushi, carpaccio, salads...) cold sake is recommended. When having hot pot or richer dishes, warm sake is recommended.

How to warm up sake at home

The easiest way would be to warm up water in a saucepan. Once the water is boiling, turn off the fire. Pour some sake in a ceramic vessel (tokkuri) and submerge that vessel in the hot water. Check the temperature of the sake with a thermometer. Sake should be warmed up between 40C to 60C (100F to 140F).

If you don't have a thermometer, leave the vessel in the water for 2-3 minutes.

 

FYI the soft spot for most sake is between 45C to 55C / 110F to 120F.

Food pairing

 

There are two ways to pair sake: by affinity or by contrasts

  • Pairing by affinity: this means pairing a sake that has a similar flavor profile with the dish. For example, a typical junmai daiginjo tends to be quite light, floral and delicate. It will pair nicely with salad, carpaccio, sashimi, grilled chicken with herbs, just to name a few.

  • Paring by contrast: this means pairing a sake that has a flavor profile that balances the flavor of the dish. For example, a kimoto type tends to have a good acidity. It’ll be perfect with grilled fish, which tends to be oily, fried chicken, or Chinese fried rice. 

Sake Storage

Like wine, sake doesn’t like direct sunlight and prefers to be kept away from humidity. After opening a bottle, keep it in the fridge and drink it within a week. If you buy namazake, or unpasteurized sake, keep the bottle refrigerated even before opening it.