Hot vs Cold Sake

Should you drink sake hot or cold?

It’s a common question that arises from sake drinkers.  While it’s ultimately up to the drinker to decide, we can offer some information to help you make your decision.

Traditionally, sake was warmed before drinking.  The brewing process was not as refined as it is today and the sake was stored in wooden casks, typically cedar, which lent to a rough, woodsy flavor.  To soften the flavor, the sake was gently warmed to the point where bubbles would form, but not begin to boil, by having the tokkuri (ceramic container for serving sake) filled with sake, and placed in a pot of water over a stove.

Fast forward to today, where the brewing and milling processes have advanced, and glass bottles and stainless-steel tanks have replaced the wooden casks.  Also, new strains of rice and koji enable sake to have more delicate and intricate flavors.  Adding heat, would drastically change the flavor and may even ruin the effort that brewmasters invested to create a great sake.

Although some Ginjo sakes can be enjoyed warm, the majority of the sake types should be enjoyed chilled.  It should not be served too cold, but at a temperature similar to white wine.

As it is a personal preference, one way to find the perfect temperature for yourself and the sake, is to start with a chilled bottle of sake and leave it out while enjoying servings as the bottle warms to room temperature.  You’ll then be able to experience the variety of flavors as the sake warms and figure out what best fits your palate.

 So, as a general rule, the following could be stated:

Hot sake – Bad, as it’s used to mask the rough flavors of the sake

Cold sake – Good, as allows the subtle, intricate flavors of the sake to come through

But don’t take our word for it.  Do some testing and find out for yourself. Now go out there and do some experimenting!  The more you do, the better you will feel!