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Although the most popular beverage in Japan is beer, and their whiskey is of world-class quality, the country's national drink is and will forever be sake.

This exciting rice-based alcoholic drink has been called rice wine and rice beer, but it is neither; it's in a category of its own.

Understanding the intricacies behind the distinct sake styles, quality tiers and flavour profiles requires thorough (but tasty) study. Still, we can learn a bit about this extraordinary drink every day, starting with how to drink sake.

Sake is a complicated drink, producing it is labour intensive and time-consuming. It's an act of love! The extensive process results in many styles, each with unique flavour profiles, alcohol levels and sweetness. No two sake bottles are alike.

Before you learn how to drink and serve sake, you might want to know more about sake making. Please read our What is Sake Guide, and you might also enjoy our feature about the History of Sake.

With a notion of why every sake is distinct from others, let's talk about how you should serve and appreciate this ancient drink.

How To Serve and Drink Sake


Some sake comes in wine bottles, while others come in bottles resembling beer or liqueur. Despite the packaging, proper sake service starts by pouring the sake into a tokkuri.

Tokkuri

A tokkuri is a flask, typically very stylish and nicely decorated, and it's ideal to pour sake to your guests.

The tokkuri serves another purpose, when warm sake is to be served, the tokkuri is heated in warm water, allowing for gentle heating that doesn't damage the precious beverage.


Masu

Back in the day, vendors sold rice by volume using a wooden box as a standard measure. That box is the masu and holds around 180ml.

Using the masu as a drinking vessel became customary, with the added benefit of infusing the spirit with wood notes. Of course, the finest types of sake would be ruined by the wood flavours, so today the masu is ornamental and not widely used.


Ochoco

Small ceramic cups soon became the norm for drinking sake, they're odourless and can be quite beautiful — authentic collector's pieces.


Wine Glasses

Today, the finest sake bottles can have hefty price tags, and experts serve these extraordinary beverages in the most exclusive restaurants around the world.

It comes as no surprise that wine glasses, particularly those used for white wine, have become the norm in certain circles. Swirling a glass of sake releases its subtle aroma, bringing immense pleasure to the taster.


Should Sake Be Enjoyed Warm or Cold?


Sake producers create a wide variety of styles, some are crystal clear, and others are milky, some are bone dry and others sweet.

Despite the style of sake, all sake is divided into two main categories, and each class has an ideal serving temperature:

Futsū-shu - Ordinary sake

Mass-produced, economic sake of great value. This type of sake can be enjoyed in traditional ochoco cups and can be appreciated warm. It's also used for making cocktails.

Tokutei meishō-shu - Special-designation sake.

This is premium sake that can vary in style and quality. Most of these types of sake are meant to be enjoyed slowly and are better served slightly cool in a wine glass. Your refrigerator temperature, of around 4°C is an excellent starting point.

If you want to dig deeper into sake, browse our selection and find a style that sings to you. It would help if you tried different sake before finding the ones you like the most, but every bottle is an experience hard to forget.