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How to Drink Sake

28th February, 2018

Is it just me or is sake popping up everywhere? Not just in Japanese restaurants but in bars and all sorts of restaurants.

So, what is sake and how do you order it without looking like an idiot?

Firstly sake is alcohol. It’s made from fermented rice, a dash of an enzyme known as koji and a splash of water. Since the 12th century the Japanese have been perfecting this wonderful drink and a whole tradition has grown up around it. The brewers are  known as a toji – and are revered similar to a winemakers, and the workers in sake breweries are called kurabito.

OK – just how alcoholic is it?

Sake ranges from 6 to 20 per cent alcohol. When you think the average bottle of wine is 12.5%, sake can pack a punch!

So how should you store and serve sake?

Sake is a delicate alcoholic drink which is sensitive to light and heat. It should be stored preferably in the fridge and once open its best consumed in one sitting.

Just like tea, sake drinking is an art form in itself.  It is served in special bottles and decanters called tokkuri in measurements of 180ml or 360ml or in a 720ml bottle.  You drink the sake from a small cup called a sakazuki. Usually the decanters and cup are made of earthenware or porcelain but some are made of glass or lacquerer ware. The really interesting thing is that sake is served from 5 to 55 degrees Celsius depending on the type of sake.

What’s better hot or cold?

Ask a sake connoisseur and they will say they prefer to drink their sake cold, cool or at room temperature. In reality the different types of sake are designed to be drunk at different temperatures is best to ask the staff at the bar or restaurant for their advice.

Is there anything else a newbie needs to know?

Now as with everything Japanese, there is some etiquette to keep in mind when drinking sake. If you’re drinking with someone it is good manners to pour servings for your partner– usually the younger person pours for the older person first. When someone is pouring sake for you it is polite to hold your sake cup with one hand and to put the other hand under the cup. Have a sip before putting the cup back on the table.

Lesson over – now your challenge is to experiment, maybe even take a trip to Japan – after all it’s the best place to understand sake and you’ll have no trouble finding someone to share it with even if you don’t speak Japanese!




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