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September 24, 2021
What is the appropriate and the best way to enjoy sake? As many of you know, people usually drink sake from sipping cups that are specialized for sake. You also may know that most of the sake cups are small porcelain but only few people yet aware that sake may be enjoyed in a number of different kinds of vessels. From traditional to modern, there are many different styles you can choose from. In this article, we introduce you multiple types of sake sets that would make your sake experience exquisite.1. The Types of Sake Cups
Sakazuki is the oldest sake cup style and the ceremonial favorite. The wide-mouthed shaped cup is shallow but dramatic, as the flavor comes through a noise first. Then, it spreads and stays for a while in a mouth.
This cup is most formally lifted to the mouth with two hands: one to hold the bottom of the cup and the other to hold it on the side.
Sakazuki are often beautifully decorated and usually made from porcelain, earthenware or lacquer but some are available also in gold, silver and glass.
When using sakazuki, it is common to pour for the other person and to reciprocally accept another person's offer to pour. This form of etiquette is a form of empathy to express not only hospitality but also understanding of the needs and enjoyment of others.
These days, this cup is most often rather in small shape as it is known as a sipping cup.
Guinomi cups are originally known as casual form of sipping. They are also available today in glass and are often used to enjoy chilled sake in the warm summer months.
The traditional etiquette for the ochoko, like the sakazuki, is to pour for others and to accept reciprocal offers of sake.
In many situations today, however, it has become more acceptable to pour for oneself in order to make a party or group gathering less formal and to allow people to enjoy sake at their own pace.
This lighter colored wooden made sake cup is called masu. The masu, however, was not originally used as a drinking cup but rather as a tool for measurement.
In 17th to 19th centry, the square box shaped masu were used by merchants to measure for sale such important commodities as rice and other grains as well as soy sauce, vinegar and sake. Masu is also difficult to break and able to hold a large amount. The masu later became a popular cup for enjoying sake at festivals, cherry blossom viewing "hanami" and other outdoor events.
Most of the masu cups are made from hinoki (cypress) which give sake an uncomparablely fresh and unique quality.
In case you have not decided which cups to buy or want to try all of them, you might want to get a sake flight tasting set with different sake cup shapes.
This professional sake tasting set will upgrade your sake tasting game. This set comes with three different shapes of sake cups (for dry, aromatic, and rich style of sake) with a wooden base.
2. The Types of Sake Holders
Tokkuri (徳利) is a generic term for carafes. Generally, they have a narrow neck and a bulbous base. Most of tokuuri are ceramic.
They often come in a sake set with matching ochoko or guinomi.
There are variety of sizes for sake holders, but 12 oz (360 mL) is the most common volume. Eight-ounce tokkuri containers are probably the next most common size.
Tokkuri, like most sake serving vessels, can be made from a range of materials like ceramics, glass, metal, and even squid.
The narrow neck of the tokkuri is designed for heat retention. Most ceramic tokkuri are designed to withstand high temperatures, which makes them ideal for hot or warm sake. You can place an entire carafe in a hot water bath. The sake inside will heat up rapidly.
Many tokkuri are also microwavable. But we recommend avoiding it when possible. It’s very difficult to control the temperature. This means it’s easy to overcook your sake. It won’t taste as good if this happens.
Cold sake can also be served in a tokkuri, of course. But we recommend hot sake for tokkuri.
Here is our best selling tokkuri item.
A katakuchi (片口) is a serving vessel with a single spout on one side. It’s one of many types of tokkuri.
Traditionally, katakuchi were cold sake pitchers. Today it’s a popular choice for serving a variety of liquids, including matcha and salad dressing.
There are many types for katakuchi such as stoneware, earthenware, porcelain, glass, and metal (gold, silver, tin) are all materials used to make katakuchi.
The katakuchi is a better cup for serving chilled or room temperature sake than heated sake.
Unlike tokkuri, katakuchi have a wide opening at the top, which doesn’t help retain heat. That being said, most of them will do fine in a pinch. And this may not be a factor at all if the sake gets consumed quickly.
Katakuchi is an elegant design that works well with cold sake. Hot sake can work too, but tokkuri do a better job of retaining heat.
Here is our recommendation for Katakuchi.
3. The Culture of Sake
As we have mentioned a couple of times already, it is common to pour for the other person and to reciprocally accept another person's offer to pour especially when drinking sake with your boss or colleagues. It is not mandatory to follow the culture of mutual sake-pouring, but you can enjoy authentic sake experience like a local when you visit Japan.
If you have heard of the word izakaya, or been to one already, you are a certified as local in Japan.
Izakaya is a place where you can stay and drink. You get served a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks. Izakayas are different from bars in that diners are always seated (usually at a table or on tatami) and there is less opportunity for interaction with other customers.
If you are looking for a place where you can enjoy sake with authentic Japanese dishes, izakayas are perfect for you.
Here in Japan, we have some outdoor events where you can enjoy sake (Not around these times due to the pandemic).
Cherry blossom viewing "hanami" is the most popular and the traditional event where people gather, share food and drinks including sake.
4. Sake Brands
Finally, we introduce you some of the most popular sake brands here in Japan.
Here are some sake brands we would recommend. One, or a few small bottles would be nice to try. It does not have to be any on the following list.
This Daiginjo fits in between Dassai “49” and “23” in terms of milling rates and is both similar and different to its sister brews. The nose is fruity with koji rice, apple, honeydew, and strawberry aromas. A very plush sake that is loaded with fruit basket flavors and has a very wine-like acidity presence with a long finish. Chewy, round, and soft, but bright – go figure! Hints of pear, apple, blueberry and honeydew on a fleshy fluid that is lively and velvety. “39” drinks almost nama-like and beware of fruit flies who will surely find your glass within minutes.
The rice for this Junmai Ginjo is really milled to a Daiginjo rate and has very floral nose filled with hints of cherry blossoms and pear. It has a light and smooth beginning that greets a fruity middle mouth made up of persimmon and peach flavors, and the sake slips into round and fresh finish with no aftertaste. Dry fruit tones mixed with a tender acidity makes for an elegant and refreshing sake that feels good in the mouth.
The nose is a party of dried fruit, minerals, nutmeg, ripe plum, and banana cream pie. Oooooh the Kubota legend brings forth a honjozo that belts around flavors such as caramel, cotton candy and cocoa in a very dry and of course clean package. There is a bit of back door acidity and an unmistakable aftertaste that revisits the cotton candy elements. Clean and clear this honjozo gives one a good impression of a layered sake that works better at or near room temperature.
The nose on this extremely famous Honjozo from the brewery that calls itself “The Oldest Brand Since 1505” is a dynamic collection of steamed rice, cocoa, maple syrup, and noughet aromas. The distinctive labels shows a sword tip coming at you just like the deep, rich and full-bodied flavors come right at your palate. This brew is dense and thick and feels great in the palate. Look for savory and sweet rice flavors that flow on a fat liquid that is excellent for warming. Dig deep and you find a layer of cocoa tones and even deeper you will happen upon a cream brulee flavor that is out of this world. Truly one of the classic Honjozos that every sake explorer should try at some point.
The nose on this very flavorful Daiginjo is a splendid collection of steamed rice, oatmeal and banana tones. What a fine and solid sake this "50" is, so full of feeling and flavor. Look for hints of mint, steamed rice, and apple licks that drink thick and chewy. A very full bodied brew that is rich and long in flavor and feels great in the palate.
This brewery is famous for making sakes using “hana” or flower “kobo” yeasts. The nose on this traditionally made Kimoto style sake that is made with Rhododendron flower yeast is filled with honey-clover, honeydew, floral and sweet rice dessert aromas. Say hello to a complex sake that drinks with total ease! There are a gambit of flavors moving here and there from a cooked fruit pie tartness to chewy and plump sweet tones that work melon, strawberry and honey elements. The rice varietal is Omachi, which creates bigger and more expressive flavors. Soft, smooth, plump and viscous, this brew is rich and layered that excels in a mid-sized glass.