Saké: Hot or Cold?

on on . Posted in Blog.

With summer upon us, many turn to an iced cocktail or cold beer. But did you know that there sakés that are delicious cold?

Higher premium saké, like jingo or daijingo (see Do You Know Your Saké? for terms) is best chilled anywhere from 50 degrees (hana-bie "flower chill") to 60 degrees (ryo-bie "refreshing chill"), and best served in a wine glass so you can take in the aroma.

Many, however, drink these fine brews over ice, the way one would drink whisky "on the rocks."

Luckily, these premium sakés have flourished and you can find them even in small liquor stores outside of Japan.  It's really worth it to check them out.

Most Westerners are familiar with hot saké served in a ceramic flask-like tokkuri. Cheap saké is good this way because it goes down more easily. The tokkuri is usually placed in a pot of hot water on the stove or in the microwave until it reaches the temperature you like.

I usually like my winter sake at a temperature where I can stick my finger in it for three seconds.  Not very scientific I'll grant you, but it works on a cold Japanese night.

Warm is also good for the lower grade premium saké like junmai or honjozo . A good temperature can range from 95 degrees Fahrenheit to 122 degrees (called atsukan).

Especially if you are drinking from the tiny ochoko cups, you should follow the etiquette of pouring for each other and raising your own cup when someone pours for you. Be sure to drink it fairly soon after you buy it and very soon after you open it -- an open bottle will last only a couple of days in the refrigerator.

So-how do you like your saké? And what's your favorite premium grade saké?

by Diana Rowland author of Japanese Business: Rules of Engagement

Also see: Do You Know Your Saké?

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