Enjoying Hot or Cold Sake

Different Sakes at Different Temperatures

Sake is traditionally served warmed. About 30 or 40 years ago, warmed sake is much rougher, fuller, sweeter and woodier than the warmed sake now. For many centuries, sake was brewed in wooden tanks made from cedar and stored in wooden casks. You can just imagine the tremendously woody flavor and aroma of Japan’s favorite drink at the time. And that’s is why sake has to be warmed when drinking it back then, to masked the not-so-refined aspects of the drink – it was woody and rough. But it seems to be suitable.

Then change came to the sake-brewing world. Brewing technology has advanced since. Today, sake is brewed in stainless steel, ceramic-lined tanks, and stored in bottles. Even rice milling techniques have improved. New strains of sake rice became available and pure yeast strains led to sake with bold and lively taste and fragrances. Sake became more delicate with fruity and flowery essences. Premium sake is like that and to heat it may destroy the flavors.

Good sake is enjoyed slightly chilled, but not too much either. Over-chilling it will leave it tasteless. Sake’s flavor peaks at slightly below room temperature and if anyone serves you ice-cold sake, that sake may be of inferior quality. With their varieties, each sake will be different at even slightly different temperatures. You might like yours at a particular temperature as others will like theirs at a different one.

With plenty of good sake around, such as premium ginjo or daiginjo, even when slightly warmed is excellent sake. It is a fine drink especially in the winter months.

So how’d you know if a particular sake is best warmed or chilled?

The label should say it. Sake breweries, called sakagura, will say if their sake is better served warmed. So try the varieties and taste as many as you can so as to help you decide which is best for you. Also, recommendations from friends, restaurants, sake experts, among others, can lend you a hand.

Sake at its Best in Lynnwood

Discover the higher standards of Japanese cuisine at Wild Wasabi. Enjoy our sake that pairs wonderfully with many of our sushi selections.