How to properly heat sake

How do you drink sake?


Warm or cold? What is the right drinking temperature for sake? Fortunately, there is no one way to enjoy this traditional Japanese drink. Depending on the type or personal preference, you can have sake warm and drink cold.

Drink good sake cold and bad sake warm?

When I began to delve deeper into the subject of sake, I quickly stumbled upon advice such as: cheap sake is drunk warm, good sake is drunk cold. According to Dagmar Maas, sake sommelier and owner of the sake import company Nihon Mono, this is a cliché.

It has nothing to do with the quality of the sake, how it should be drunk, but much more to do with the aroma.

Because certain temperatures support or dampen certain aromas. As a rule of thumb, one can say in simplified terms that:

  • cold temperatures support fresh, fruity notes
  • warm temperatures enhance umami (savory) and rice notes

So, the best thing to do first is to find out what flavor the sake you want to drink has, and then decide on the right temperature.

The reason for the advice to drink cheap sake warm and expensive sake cold is because a fruity, floral and delicate sake is often of a higher quality and is therefore more expensive. Cheap sakes tend to have hearty notes. This has to do with the degree of polishing of the rice grain. (If you want to know more about it, see the article "What is sake?".)

However, there are also very high-quality and expensive sakes that are full of hearty notes and are therefore also served warm.

What does cold mean and what does warm mean?

Experts usually give the possible temperature range for sake from five to 55 degrees Celsius.

Strongly chilled Sparkling and unpasteurized (cloudy) sake are mainly served (i.e. straight from the refrigerator).

Slightly chilled (10-16 degrees) you drink very fruity, floral sake. These are mostly highly polished varieties, also known as Daiginjo (or Ginjo).

Room temperature:At room temperature (and slightly above) we humans perceive the greatest variety of aromas and tastes. So this is where both the hearty and fruity notes come through.

Warmed up (up to 55 degrees): As the temperature rises, fresh and fruity notes take a back seat, while the hearty notes are intensified. When heating, it is important not to heat above 55 degrees, as the taste of sake will suffer if the temperature is too hot. Even if you let it cool down a bit to drink, the aroma will be partially destroyed.

Experimentation is worth it

Basically, sake has the advantage over wine that it can be drunk at different temperatures. Most sake has more than just one drinking temperature. This is also due to the fact that many sakes combine both fruity and hearty notes. That invites you to experiment.

For example, you can drink the same sake first slightly chilled, then at room temperature and then slightly warmed up and experience how the taste changes.

The cooler the sake is drunk, the more fresh and fruity aromas come to the fore. The warmer the sake, the more rice and umami notes emerge.

So there are many ways to Rome (or to Tokyo). Because, in the end, it also depends on your individual preferences. If you prefer fruity-floral notes, then you tend to drink a sake cooler, if you prefer it hearty, rather than warmer. As I said, experimenting is worth it!

With that in mind, stay curious!

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Jörn
Founder, TRY FOODS