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Enjoying Japanese "Sake" at Various Temperatures

Perhaps there is no other alcoholic beverage other than "sake" that can be enjoyed in a wide range of temperatures. That range is from 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) to 55 degrees C (131 degrees F), enabling one to drink it hot or cold, and sometimes to even enjoy it on the rocks or frozen. It is said that the taste of "sake" changes subtly by increases or decreases in the temperature of cold "sake" or hot "sake", and even at room temperature, one can discover the unnoticed charm that is Japanese "sake".


 Enjoying Warm or Hot "Sake"
It is said that warm or hot "sake" was enjoyed in the old days among the nobles from as far back as the Heian era, made its way to the ordinary citizens of japan in the middle Edo period(Genroku period) with the general spread of "Seto style" small "sake" cups ("guinomi") and larger "sake" jars ("tokkuri") and became a nationwide custom from the Meiji period.

When Japanese "sake" is made warm or hot, the taste of the "sake" becomes deeper, and it is possible to feel the flavor which differs from that of "sake" consumed at room temperature. In addition, as the temperature is increased the effect of the alcohol also increases, and the taste becomes somewhat dry. Even in taste carried out at hakutsuru, results showed about a 2-degree greater dryness for the value of the "sake meter value ('Nihonshu-do')". Let's say that warm or hot "sake" is ideal for food flavored with soy sauce such as "sushi" and raw fish ("sashimi"). Generally speaking, warm "sake" is suited to cold and plain foods, and hot "sake" is suited to hot pot ("nabe") dishes and foods made with a lot of oil and fat.


 How to make Delicious Warm or Hot "Sake"
There are various ways to make warm or hot "sake", but the best way is in hot water. It has been said that the number one way to enjoy warm or hot "sake" is to put "sake" into a "sake" jar ("tokkuri"), place the "sake" jar into a pot of hot water (of about 98 degrees C (208 degrees F)) and then to heat the "sake" to the desired temperature (never boil "sake"). The standard is to look into the "sake" vessel and if there are small bubbles swelling up, then the "sake" is considered warm (about 40 degrees C (104 degrees F)), or if the bubbles immediately rise to the surface, then the "sake" is considered hot (50 degrees C (122 degrees F)). The standard time for leaving the "sake" vessel in the hot water is about 2 to 2.5 minutes for 180ml ("ichigo"). The "sake" is poured into a small sake cup ("ochoko") or a larger sized cup ("guinomi") and consumed.

Time standard for delicious warm or hot sake
(when the heated sake is made with boiled water
of about 98 degrees C (208 degrees F))


 Enjoying Chilled "Sake"
The temperature at which to drink cold "sake" is about 8 degrees C (46 degrees F). In the middle of summer, however, some people prefer to drink "sake" below 5 degrees C (41 degrees F). When the temperature is high, cold products are felt to be delicious, and in this light, the subtle aroma of Japanese "sake" gives a richness to the taste. In particular, because the smell of fresh "sake" and a sharp taste are characteristic of delicious draft "sake", it harmonizes wonderfully when adjusting to light sweet and sour foods. In addtion, cold "sake" will even wash away the lingering aftertaste of oily foods.

We recommend "sake" be consumed in a small way, i.e., in mouthful units, such as with a small elegant glass, wine glass or crystal.


 Glossary

joukan hot "sake" (around 50 degrees C (122 degrees F))
nurukan Warm "sake" (around 40 degrees C (104 degrees F))
hitohadakan lukewarm "sake" (around 35 degrees C (95 degrees F))
jouon "sake" served at room temperature
reishu chilled "sake" (5 degrees C (41 degrees F) to
around 8 degrees C (46 degrees F))
kanzake hot or warm "sake"
nihonshudo "sake" meter value; a very general reference to
the sweetness or dryness of "sake"
tokkuri the small jars used to hold and pour "sake"
choko/ochoko the tiny cups used for drinking "sake"
guinomi the larger sized cups used for drinking "sake"


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