Friends toasting with sake

You can serve rice wine in multiple ways. Rice wine, also called sake, is served differently depending on how traditional you want to be. The authentic Japanese manner of serving rice wine is complex and closely related to Japanese manners and customs. Keep in mind that sake has a higher alcohol content than most beers or lagers, but contains significantly less alcohol than vodka or whiskey.

Serving Sake

Chill or warm your sake unless you want to drink it at room temperature. Ginjo sake is usually chilled, while the junmai class should be drank at room temperature or slightly chilled. Genshu sake benefits from being warmed.

Pour your sake into a pitcher if you're serving it the Japanese way. The Japanese use a ceramic or wooden pitcher, called a tokkuri, and matching cups called guinomi or ochoko. Traditionally, sake drinkers do not pour their own glass.

Serve food that complements sake. Salty foods, such as pickles, complement sweet, heavy varieties of sake. Lighter sakes can be served with fish, especially Japanese preparations such as sushi or sashimi. Jumai sake is best served with cheese and other dairy.

Heating Sake

Heat your sake if it's the right variety, or if it's inexpensive. The correct temperature for warm sake is between 100 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour your sake into a tall jar or flask. Heat a pot of water until it boils and take it off the burner. Put the jar of sake into the pot and check it periodically. Sake is considered "warm" when bubbles well at the bottom but do not rise, and "hot" when the bubbles rise.

Drink your sake quickly after warming. Do not allow it to sit. Sake oxidizes rapidly when it is opened, and warming a liquid will speed up any chemical reactions taking place.


Try chilling your sake, then allowing it to warm up to room temperature as you drink it. This will help you find the best way to serve it. Premium sakes are rarely warmed up.


Unlike wine, sake does not improve with age. It is best to drink your sake within 2 hours of opening and within a week of purchase. If you cannot finish a bottle of sake, refrigerate it and finish it within two days.