Sipping on sake over a meal is a favourite pastime in Japan. Sake is one of the most traditional cultural drinks and has been for many centuries. Sake has transcended borders recently when tourism in Japan exploded in numbers and many more people began to appreciate how the perceivably simplistic beverage could elevate a meal by a mile.
As people delve more and more into the intricacies of sake, they’ll come to realize that sipping on chilled sake at a restaurant is barely scratching the surface of the entire sub-culture of Japanese drinking.
If you’re keen to learn more about the basics of sake, have a read our detailed article here: All You Need To Know About Japanese Sake.
One of the more pleasantly surprising details about sake is that not only can it be sipped on chilled, but it can also be enjoyed warm and even hot as well! Depending on the meal that you’re having, or the social setting that you’re in, the temperature of the sake that you’re drinking can affect the mood and taste of the food.
When you have sake at home, you might want to elevate your dining experience. You might want to impress your friends by cooking up a fantastic Japanese meal and accompanying it with some authentic sake.
If you’re serving it cold, all you need to do is chill it in the fridge. However, if you’re wanting to go serve it hot, it’s much more complicated than simply nuking it in the microwave!
Heating it until it’s super-hot in the microwave without taking into account the temperature and time of heating will destroy the flavour and the aroma profile of almost any sake.
Let’s now discuss some methods of heating your sake at home so that you can serve it up in the most authentic way possible.
How To Heat Japanese Sake With The Hot Bath Method
In this method, you will need a special sake decanter called a tokkuri. A tokkuri is usually made of ceramic or porcelain.
If you don’t have a tokkuri, you can get one in one of our Japanese Sake sets.
Before you start heating your sake, here is some basic information that you’d want to know:
- Sake can be enjoyed at many different temperatures; there isn’t a completely right answer. However, people generally aim to warm their sake to around 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40°C).
- The flavour and taste of the sake differ depending on the temperature at that you heat it.
- If you’re lost, most of the time, you will find the information on how to heat the sake to its optimum temperate at the back of the bottle.
Step 1 – Heat water
Fill up a small pot with water until it is half full and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiled, place your empty tokkuri bottle into the water standing up and turn off the heat.
Step 2 – Heat the tokkuri bottle
Once you’ve turned off the heat, wait for your tokkuri bottle to heat up from the hot water. This should take roughly 2-4 minutes. If your tokkuri bottle was chilled beforehand, warming up the bottle may take a little longer.
Step 3 – Pour in the sake and let it heat up
Once the tokkuri bottle is nice and warm, you may now pour in your sake.
Fill the tokkuri bottle to the neck with sake. If you have a thermometer, use it to measure the temperature inside of the tokkuri bottle. Once it reaches your desired temperature (or 104 degrees Fahrenheit = 40°C), you may take it off the heat.
If you don’t have a thermometer, look out for the bubbles which will appear at the neck of the bottle. Once small bubbles start forming, it is considered warm, which is around the 104 degrees Fahrenheit range (40°C). If the bubbles rise rapidly and cascade over the bottle, it is considered hot, which is around the 122° Fahrenheit range (= 50°C ).
Step 4 – Serve
You may now pour the warm sake and enjoy it with your guests.
How To Heat Japanese Sake Without Tokkuri
If you don’t have a tokkuri, you may pour your sake into a microwave-safe container, bottle, cup, or glass. Cover the top with a clear wrap as this helps heat the sake more evenly.
What is recommended is heating it on high for a few seconds (30-45 seconds), and then taking it out to test it. A way to test it is to place your finger near the heating mechanism and see how hot it is (this applies to tokkuri bottles, but can also be used on other devices as well).
Once you gauge how much it heats up in a certain amount of time, give it another (short) whirl and test it again. Try it a few times to try and get it to your desired temperature.
Depending on the size and type of heating mechanism being used, the time it takes to heat the sake will differ. If you are heating it in the microwave, remember not to let it boil!
One of the most harmful things to the flavour profile of sake is to heat it extremely quickly, which is what a lot of people do as a mistake when they place it in the microwave for 1 minute on high.
You may also use a tokkuri bottle if you please. However, if you do so, ensure that there are absolutely no metallic designs on the bottle, otherwise, it will be damaged in the heating process.
Single Serving Sake
If you’re looking to heat just a single serving of sake, the process is quite simple and you do not need a tokkuri for this.
- Step 1: Boil water in a kettle, and then pour the boiling water into a heat-resistant glass. You may use a sake shot glass if you’d like.
- Step 2: Leave the boiling water in there for 1-2 minutes to heat the glass.
- Step 3: Pour out the boiling water once the glass is hot, and then pour in your single shot of room temperature sake. The heat from the hot glass will warm up the sake.
A foolproof method of heating your sake would be to use a sous-vide machine. It’s pretty self-explanatory…set your sous-vide machine to your desired temperature, and once it reaches it, pop in your tokkuri bottle and it’ll be ready in no time.
Which Sake Should Be Drunk Warm?
There are various ways to enjoy the different sake varieties, however, some are more suited to being drunk warm than others.
As a rule of thumb, sake with the label ‘Ginjo’ is generally not suitable for drinking warm. For example, ‘Gingjo-shu’, ‘Junmai-Ginjo-Shu’, and ‘Daiginjo’. If you heat this type of sake, it will lose its fruity flavour profile.
Freshly brewed sake is also another type of sake that is not suitable for drinking warm; it is generally served chilled to enjoy its freshness.
If you see the label ‘Junmai-shu’, then this type of sake is suitable for warming up. However, heating it too much will make it dry. ‘Junmai-shu’ type of sake has an optimum temperature of around 33-40 degrees Celsius to make the most of its flavour.
For a type of sake that can be heated up until it’s hot, you can try ‘Honjozo’ sake. This type of sake has a similar aroma and flavour profile to ‘junmai-shu’, however, when heated up to hot temperatures, it retains its clean and refreshing taste.
We hope you found this article on how to heat Japanese sake at home enlightening! Drinking sake is a fantastic way to appreciate the ancient food and drink customs of Japan, and learning to prepare it properly at home is just another fun way you can connect to the culture.
If you are interested in more info about Japanese alcoholic drinks, you can also read this blog post about the differences between Sake vs Shochu vs Soju.