Beautiful Sake Sets From Japan | Sake Drinking 101
However, if you’re already a sake lover you’ll also find here interesting info about traditional sake sets you can get from Japan as well as the various types of sake sets and sakes that every sake lover should know.
You can learn more about sake etiquette so you can turn sake drinking into a real experience that you can enjoy with friends and family during your next dinner party or even alone on your next night in with a good book.
While a quality sake set is most Japanese lovers’ dream it’s also a great addition to any wine lovers collection who enjoy getting buzzed in special ways.
Section 1: Sake Drinking 101
Section 2: Beautiful Sake Sets from Japan that double as perfect gifts
Section 1: Sake Drinking 101
*Disclaimer: Some links on AsianaCircus.com are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase we may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for your support, you’re awesome! =)
What is sake? Is Sake a wine or liquor?
Let’s begin with the big question; what is Sake or Saké? The original meaning is simply ‘alcoholic drink’, therefore you can find many different types of Sake. What is generally referred to as Sake, Japanese call ‘Nihonshu’.
Saké is a traditional Japanese alcoholic drink made by fermenting rice. It is important that the rice grains are polished to be stripped of the bran. There is an additional ingredient; a mold culture called rice kōji.
Funny enough, while Sake is often referred to as Japanese rice wine it’s neither wine or liquor. Saké is actually closer to beer as during the fermentation process the grain starch is turned into sugar, which then is brewed to become alcohol.
In western countries, Sake is referred to as rice wine because of its elegant way of consumption and a wide variety of elegant flavors. You actually taste it and not shoot it like spirits.
Sake etiquette / How to drink sake?
There is always a receiver and a pourer. The receiver has to hold the cup in the right hand supported by the left. The aim is to make the cup look attractive.
Once we received the pour, we have to take a sip before placing it back on the table. It is also important to note, we never shoot Sake, but slowly sip it.
When pouring, we have to hold the tokkuri (bottle) in our right hand and support it with the left-hand closer to the neck of the flask. Pour carefully and make sure you control the flow of the drink.
After stopping the flow, turn the carafe slightly toward yourself to avoid dripping.
Serving Sake traditional Japanese style
If you want to do it the proper way, you have to serve it in traditional sake sets from Japan. A set is made up of a carafe (tokkuri) and cups (sakazuki or choko).
In case you serve warm Sake, make sure you warm up the carafe by placing it in boiling water. Never directly boil Sake, overheating will ruin the taste.
Do Japanese people drink sake hot or cold?
Things have changed a lot over the centuries and nowadays the majority of Sakes are consumed chilled. Lately, most of the Sakés are brewed in a way that created flavor profiles that can be better enjoyed below room temperature.
If you order at a bar or restaurant, it is very likely you will find the rice drinks categorized into chilled and warm. Finding the right temperature for each drink is crucial though; too cold can harm flavors and aroma as well as high temperature.
What is a good sake?
First is the rice polishing ratio or seimai buai. As mentioned above, rice is being polished to strip the grains from their bran. The better polished the rice grain, the finer quality drink you get. It is displayed in a percentage and the lower the better.
Meaning a 100% seimai buai is made with unpolished rice. An at least 50% fine sake is a top category called Daiginjo.
The second indicator is the number of ingredients. A good Saké shouldn’t have more than four ingredients. Junmai-shu, that is the pure sake, is made of only rice, kōji, and water. A few premium drinks are added distilled alcohol as well, which are called honjōzō.
Lastly, brewing plays a significant role in making high-quality Sake.
If the fine drink is brewed on small fire over a long period of time, you will get a premium quality drink. That is designated as ginjō-shu on the bottles if pure alcohol is added. In case only the three ingredients make up the brew, it is called unmai ginjō.
Types of Sake
Aromatic: has a flowery, fruity aroma with well-balanced flavor; crispy and neutral sweetness.
Refreshing: light aroma with a fresh taste.
Rich: savoury aroma with rich flavors.
Aged: spicy aroma, thick sweetness, and mature acidity.
There is also sparkling Saké, which is often flavored, the higher the quality the more natural taste.
We differentiate Sakes based on their tasting notes and the criteria mentioned above. There is Nama-zake, which is the non-pasteurized version of each of the Sakes.
In case a Saké is not pasteurized, the taste is going to be a bit more lively and it has to be kept in the fridge at all times.
What does sake taste like?
It is much less fragrant than wine, while usually, the color tends to be transparent or if it was aged, yellow, brown.
Is sake stronger than vodka?
Sake alcohol proof is usually between %15-20. Which means Vodka is much stronger than Sake. Because of this drink being consumed alongside a beer or other alcohols, it is better to stay at the lower end of the alcohol content.
Health Benefits of Sake
Japanese Sake is one of the most skin-friendly drinks you can order in a restaurant. Rice is known to have qualities that are good for your skin. It lowers your melanin production contributing to clearer skin.
Besides its beauty benefits, Sake has a number of other superb ways of making you feel better about having a cup.
Sake is good for your blood pressure, reduces the risk of cancer and even helps with allergies.
What makes Sake a great drink are its immune system boosting traits along with being a gluten-free drink.
Does sake improve with age?
The short answer is no. There are Sakes that are aged, however, there is no point for you to store a bottle for long. If you have a Japanese Cedar barrel, you can age Sake. There is one specific type of Sake called Taruzake that does age beautifully.
Does sake go bad? / How long can I keep an unopened sake?
How long does Sake stay good exactly?
If you make sure there is no contamination in the bottle, you can keep it for about a year or even longer. Make sure the bottle sealed properly and is kept in the refrigerator.
You can keep it for up to 10 years but do not expect it to get any better than it would be on day one.
What mixes well with sake? Sake Cocktails
If you are looking for great Sake cocktail ideas, then life is easy. Thanks to its fairly neutral taste depending on its type, you can use Sake as a cocktail base anytime.
For spring and summer cocktails you can use the rather crispy, flowery and sometimes fruity drinks. While for autumn and winter the rich, aged and fruity will do good.
Almost all the cocktail recipes can be recreated with Saké. If you like to use vegetable or fruit juices, then Sake pairs well.
Some of the basics you are going to love:
Cherry and Vanilla, Sparkling wine Mojito, Ginger Ale or Tonic, Sake Bloody Mary, Spritzers (mint, fruits, wines), Elderflower.
If you want to make a great sake cocktail on your next dinner party check out Hakushika Sake companies yummy sake cocktail recipes that are also perfect for beginners.
What to eat with hot and cold Sake? / Sake with Food
It is difficult to really tell you what goes well with which food because Saké is incredibly versatile. Since there are many different types of flavors, you are very likely to find a good match for your preferences.
We will try to give you some recommendations to make the exploration easier for you.
What every Sake lover should know is the word Umami. It is sort of the fifth taste besides the four primary flavors, which was discovered by Kikunae Ikeda in 1908.
Umami is technically monosodium glutamate, which has a distinctive flavor. Enough of the chemistry lesson. We do not really have a word for Umami, we could say savouriness or ripeness.
The point is; depending on the foods’ Umami, you can contrast or complement the meal by choosing the right Sake. On some of the Sakes there is an Umami indicator, usually between 1.0 and 2.0. Sakes around the measure of the higher end are extraordinary drinks.
In general, some of the fatty fish, mainly on sushi or sashimi with a cup of warm sake would do a fantastic job.
If you are looking to indulge your taste buds with lighter fish, an acidic chilled sake will be the best.
Red meats can be perfectly matched with the rather rich and aged types.
On a winter day, a cup of warm Sake will do wonders, with a nice ramen.
In conclusion, it is often left to you, which one do you prefer with your meal.
Sake with Sushi / How to create a good Sake Sushi Menu
To begin with, we have to mention that Saké is not consumed with sushi traditionally. If you go to a posh traditional Japanese restaurant, the waiter may look disapproving in case you order sake with sushi.
The reason being is because both are made of rice, which would lead to consuming too much of the same ingredient.
At most restaurants no one really cares anymore, so do not be shy to order a tokkuri of Sake.
The following are going to be good pairings, keeping in mind that you are more than welcome to create your hit pairs.
Daiginjo – complex, fragrant
Usually goes well with flavorful sushi such as eel (Unagi) and fish roe.
Ginjo – light, fruity, complex
It is a great match with tuna (Akame), salmon (Sake) and even seaweed (Wakame).
Junmai – pure rice, higher acidity, and fuller taste
As it is sort of the base of Sake, Junmai can be paired with everything, but we think it would go well with fish roe as well as vegetarian sushi.
Nama-zake – more lively than the pasteurized version
If you like the taste, you can drink with either sushi, we think it is a lovely pair to shrimp (Ebi) sushi.
Best Sake Brands in Japan
We picked four high-quality, award-winning sakes that are still affordable and perfect for those as well who are just starting to get to know the world of Sake. After you got your Japanese Sake set, it is time to fill up that tokkuri.
4 | Muromachi Shuzo Yuzu Citrus Wine / Sake Blend
This citrus wine is a blend of citrus and Sake, it is a great refresher for summer days. If you enjoy citrus flavors, then you are going to enjoy this low alcohol content drink.
The blend is based on pure junmai Sake with yuzu juice. If you would like to indulge your guests with a luxurious and high-quality drink, Muromachi Shuzo Yuzu Citrus Wine is at your service.
You can get a bottle of Muromachi Shuzo Yuzu Citrus Wine/Sake blend for $44 on Japan Centre.
3 | Gekkeikan Horin Junmai Daiginjo Sake
Gekkeikan brewery is known to be one of the best Sake makers in Japan. This beautiful and delicious Sake is the mixture of two high-quality Sake rice and fresh spring water.
It has a fruity nose with hints of cantaloupe and honeydew. If you are new to Sake or appreciate good quality Sakes, then this Horin will be your new favorite.
You can buy a bottle of Gekkeikan Horin Junmai Daiginjo Sake for $72 on Japan centre.
2 | Asahi Shuzo Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo Sake
Obtaining a bottle of this bottle of extraordinary Sake was nearly impossible a few years ago.
It became widely popular when Barack Obama got one as a present from the visiting Shinzo Abe Japanese prime minister. While it’s not the cheapest sake it’s also not the most expensive. You can get a fine bottle of Asahi Shuzo Dassai for only $97 on Japan Centre.
It is one of the highest quality Sakes with a rice polishing ratio of 23%. Despite its outstanding quality, it is still among the affordable drinks if you consider that there are bottles sold for over $500.
1 | Jyuyondai jyunmai-ginjo Tatsuno-Otoshigo Sake
However, if you want to hunt for a special more expensive bottle you should try a bottle of Juyondai. It is a real flowing gem, that is very popular in Japan.
It is on the pricey end of the shelf as it is fairly rare and one of the most highly esteemed Sakes. Takagi-shuzo breweries have been brewing this remarkable drink since the 17th century.
You can buy various excellent Juyondai bottles including this unique Jyuyondai jyunmai-ginjo Tatsuno-Otoshigo sake on Rakuten Global. This is a more expensive sake and a bottle will cost you $351.
Where to buy sake / Is Sake expensive?
Buying Japanese Sake became fairly easy. One of the best places where you can buy high-quality Sake from Japan is Japan Centre. Here you can find not only Sake but all kinds of home design, food, and unique gifts imported from Japan.
The price of a bottle of sake really depends on what category and brand you are looking to buy. Just as the case with wine. You can buy Saké for $10 and $750 as well. There are really good quality Sakés at the price range of $30 and $90.
Beautiful Sake Sets From Japan That Are Also Perfect as Sake Gift Sets
Here you’ll find traditional sake sets from japan with various designs and made of quality materials.
You can learn a bit more about Japanese sake sets, see the various types like vintage sake sets, modern sake sets, Kotobuki sake sets and even a few unique ones with dragon or cat designs for those who like a more creative design.
If you’re looking for a unique, elegant, and fun gift for your special someone these beauties are also great choices because anyone would be happy to get one of these artistic and decorative sake gift sets.
What is a Japanese sake set?
It is a very decorative table piece usually consisting of a carafe or flask (tokkuri) and a number of small cups (sakazuki or choko). Japanese Sake sets can be made of different materials, the most common is ceramic. You can find beautiful wooden, porcelain or glass sets as well.
Depending on the type of Saké, you can warm up the carafe to keep the drink warm. You serve from the carafe into the small cups.
What is a sake bottle called?
The flask or carafe is called tokkuri. On the table, you will only see a tokkuri and never a bottle.
Why are sake cups so small?
The small cups are more commonly used when you drink warm Sake. It helps to keep the drink at the right temperature. They are called sakazuki or choko.
There is also a theory to the cups getting smaller during the 17th and 18th centuries as common people began drinking Sake. Because of changes in the flavor scale of Sake, there are types that are recommended to be poured in larger glasses, even wine glasses.
18| Yamako Pottery Iki Japanese Cypress Sake Set (Wooden Sake Set)
This is a simple, minimalist set that uses Hinoki while also letting you feel the warmth of trees. This warm wood feels gentle on your mouth and hand as well.
This sake set is made in and imported from Japan and it comes with a gift box that makes it even perfect as a gift.
17| Kinran Hana Manreki Sake Set
This creative and colorful Sake set was made by ARITA and IMARI ware that are traditional Japanese Pottery makers.
Pottery production started in Japan in the 17th century and in the middle 17th century, large amounts of ARITA and IMARI ware were exported to Europe, through the Dutch trading post.
Since then the tradition and techniques of ARITA and IMARI ware have been preserved for over 400 years now. While these companies kept the traditions they also motivate young potters to make ambitious and creative new works.
This is also a hand made Japanese Sake Set.
16| Japanese Porcelain Longevity Golden Tsuru Crane Sake Set
This is a beautiful Japanese Porcelain Sake Set with the Longevity Golden Tsuru Crane painted on it.
The Sake set comes with a box set and is made in and imported from Japan.
15| Sukino Hikari Sake Set
This unique Sake Set was also created by the over 400 years old ARITA and IMARI Japanese Pottery ware makers.
It’s traditionally made in Japan and could make an excellent addition to any Sake lovers collection.
14| Enka Sake Set
This is a traditional Sake set by the amazing History of ARITA and IMARI Japanese Pottery ware companies.
If you’re looking for clean traditional design then you should go for this beautiful Sake set made in and imported from Japan.
13| Designer Sake Set – Mini Kagami Biraki Sake Barrel Set – ‘Great Wave Off Kanagawa’
This beautiful Sake set is inspired by the Kagami Biraki ceremonies that take place year-round in Japan.
During the celebrations, a ceremonial cask of sake is opened with a wooden mallet, while everybody toasts ‘yoisho’. Then the sake is shared around for all to enjoy.
The stylish sake cask, decorated with a mosaic of Hokusai’s famous ‘Great Wave Off Kanagawa’. The sake set also includes a wooden mallet and ladle plus two wooden masu cups.
The cask can be resealed with the magnetic lid, so you can easily use this set in all your celebrations again and again.
This unique sake set is from Japan and can help you to put on your own Kagami Biraki ceremony.
12| Japanese Lacquer Sakura Tosoki San San Kudo Wedding Ceremony Sake Set
If you’re looking for a fantastic gift for weddings then you should check out this beautiful and unique traditional Japanese wedding ceremony sake set from Japan.
Its elegant design will surely make the sake consuming a whole new experience.
It’s also a great gift for Sake set collectors.
11| Royal Dragon Sake Set
If you’re looking for a beautiful Dragon Sake set from Japan then you just found your new favorite.
It has a traditional design and was hand made in Japan. This beauty could make a fine gift and could be a great addition to any Sake set collection.
10| Tsukimi Usagi Rabbit Sake Set
This playful and fun sake set was also created by the famous History of ARITA and IMARI Japanese Pottery companies.
While it has a clean design it also has a more creative and modern look that could make a fun unique gift. It was also hand made in Japan.
9| Kotobuki “Kizuna” Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Sake Set
This traditional Japanese ceramic Sake set from Japan with the term “kizuna” written in Japanese kanji characters on the bottle. “Kizuna” is a phrase that means “A common bond between people”.
The glaze used on the bottle is also traditional. It is one of the ancient glazes called Oribe and it was developed in the Mino area in Japan, one of the country’s historic ceramic producing centers.
This could make an excellent gift or addition to any sake set collection. This traditional sake set was made in Japan.
8| Japanese Traditional Sake set
This beautiful Japanese traditional Sake set is made and imported from Japan.
With an elegant yet simple design, it could easily become any sake or Japan lover’s new favorite sake set.
7| Mino-Yaki Daruma Sake Set
This Mino-Yaki Daruma traditional Porcelain Sake Set was made in Japan.
It’s a fun and unique sake set that’s also microwave oven and dishwasher safe and comes in a black box.
6| Japanese Porcelain Sake Set
It’s a beautiful Japanese Porcelain Sake Set with the Dragonfly design.
It’s also microwave safe, comes in a navy gift box, and is made in Japan.
5| Toyo Sasaki Glass Cold Sake Set
If you’re looking for a glass cold sake set to add to your collection then don’t look further.
This beautiful glass sake set is by Toyo Sasaki glass and is made in Japan and imported from Japan.
4| Kotobuki Japanese Sake Set
This elegant gold with speckled brown finish ceramic sake set is a perfect gift to anyone who loves simple but creative design.
It was also made in Japan.
3| Kotobuki Bohemian Black Cat Sake Set
If you like your sake better when it’s served from a cute sake set then this lovely cat sake set will be your new favorite.
It was made in Japan and comes with two fun and colorful cups.
2| Sumo Sake Set
This beautiful Sumo Sake set is a traditional Japanese ceramics and porcelain set.
It is made and shipped directly from Japan.
This could make a perfect gift for any Japan or sake lover.
1| Japanese Edo-Kiriko (Cut Glass) Sake Set (Hishi-nanako Pattern)
This gorgeous Glass Sake Set is certainly the most unique and valuable sake set on our list.
It is a handmade Japanese Sake set of Edo-kiriko (Edo-style cut glass). Edo-kiriko is a traditional glasswork in Tokyo that’s known worldwide by its beautiful designs and delicate cutting technology.
Edo-kiriko is designated by the Japanese government as national traditional craftwork. The first production began in 1834 (late Edo period), these days many of the products have modern refined patterns while maintaining the traditional designs and methods.
While it’s a more expensive sake set, it can be a unique and thoughtful gift or a fine addition to a sake set collection.
Thank you for reading!