How to warm sake

Some people have a black and white opinion about hot sake – it’s only for cheap sake they say. While true that warming sake will round out rough edges and masks the flaws of cheap sake, premium brewers often make some of their sake with the intention of it being drunk warm and these brews can in fact be delicious and open up quite nicely when warmed.

On cold nights, warm sake (kanzake) is really a no brainer … warm sake will always be better while you are still dusting off the snow.

How to warm sake using a tokkuri

  • Fill a tokkuri with sake. A tokkuri is shaped like a vase or carafe. The narrow neck prevents heat escaping too quickly.
  • Put your tokkuri in a pot of cold water to measure how much water to fill the pot. Once placed inside the pot the fat bulb of the tokkuri should sit below the water so that the sake heats up evenly. Take your tokkuri out of the pot.
  • Boil the water and take it off the boil. The water temp should be just under 100°C.
  • Put your tokkuri or sake bottle into the pot immediately.
  • Use a stopwatch to measure the time
    • For 40°C sake … you should see small bubbles slowly come to the surface of the sake
    • For 50°C sake, bubbles should quickly come to the surface of the sake

 

tokkuri

Time in hot water

Different materials cool down at different rates. Ceramic, aluminium, copper, tin and stainless steel all cool down/heatup differently and the thicknesses of the vessels will also have an affect on time.

Depending on what material your vessel is made of here’s an indication of how long your sake should be left in a pot of boiling water 98°C (with the heat turned off). The following is based on thin porcelain tokkuri. Of course it will also change based on ambient temperature and the original temperature of your sake.

 

Temperature Phrase Approx time in water
30°C Hinatakan 1 minute
35°C - Lukewarm Hitohadakan 75 seconds
40°C - Warm Nurukan 1.5 minutes or 90 secs
45°C Jokan 2 minutes
50°C - Hot Atsukan 2.5 minutes
55°C Tobirikan 2.5 minutes
60°C   3 minutes

 

Chef's Armoury also stocks Sake Thermometers, that come in handy when you don't want to guess the temperature.

Heating sake using a tanpo or chirori

A tanpo is a metal sake vessel designed for heating sake. The handle is designed to fit snugly over the side of the pot.

Heating Tips

  1. Only warm the volume of sake you’re going to drink. Don’t warm the whole bottle.
  2. Be careful not to overheat your sake. If you go past the desired temperature there’s no turning back … it will be spoiled … Flavour will be affected and most likely become cloying on the palate.
  3. Drink your hot sake from a small sized sake cup – ochoko or guinomi. Smaller cups will lose heat less quickly than larger cups as they have a smaller surface area.
  4. For the sake otaku, buy a sake thermometer to measure the sake temperature.

 

Sake tanpo

Serving Hot Sake

Your tokkuri will be hot so you might like to use a napkin or towel to hold it.

What about a microwave?

Do you really need to ask? The answer is NO. If you have good quality sake you will want to warm it gently.

Find me a hot sake

On the Japanese Sake category page, under "Temperature" in the filter panel, check the box Hot Sake.

Have a look at the specs tab on each product page for brewer’s recommendations on temperature. You’ll find that some ginjo and daiginjos are also delicious warm and bring out different notes that you wouldn’t have experienced when chilled.

 

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