Japan Centre Sake Series Part 3: Enjoying Sake With Food

Welcome to Japan Centre’s Sake Series. Whether you’re a sake connoisseur or a complete beginner, let the Japan Centre be your guide to the rich world of sake. Part 3: Enjoying Sake With Food focuses on how best to serve and enjoy sake with food, with expert tips from Japan Centre sake sommelier Sachiko Koyama. 

Have a read of Part 1: What is Sake and How is it Made? for a brief history of sake and an overview of how it’s made. Want to try sake but not sure where to start? Part 2: Choosing Your Sake is helpful for those of you who need to navigate your way through the different styles and grades available. 

Serving and Enjoying Sake

If you’ve selected your sake, but need some more advice about the best way to drink it, then you’re in the right place! We asked Japan Centre sake sommelier Sachiko Koyama to give us some essential tips for serving and enjoying your sake.

How do I serve sake and what sort of cup should I use?

Depending on the temperature and type of sake, the basic vessels are the tokkuri (decanter with tapered neck and rounded body) and choko (cup). These can be made from a wide variety of materials, such as glass, tin, wood, lacquerware or ceramics. Wine glasses are also a great way to appreciate the delicate aromas or ginjo-ka of sake.

Should sake be drunk warm or cold? 

Sake can be enjoyed at a wide range of temperatures. In general and as a rule of thumb, Sakes made from rice with a lower polishing ratio such as Junmai or sake with high acidity level such as Kimoto are more suited to be drunk warm.

Is there any etiquette to observe or be aware of when pouring or receiving sake? 

When offering sake it is important to pour using both hands, and if the cup is less than one-third full, offer a top-up. When drinking sake, take a small sip (you do not need to finish all of the sake in the cup) holding the cup in one hand while supporting the bottom with the other.

What is the best way to heat sake?

Place the tokkuri flask containing sake in a pot of hot water so that the sake heats up gradually. Remove from the hot water before the alcohol begins to evaporate.

Enjoying Sake With Food

Sake is known for its versatility and can be enjoyed with a wide variety of foods, from starters and main courses to desserts. It also pairs well with all sorts of different cuisines, not just with Japanese food. The high amino acid content in sake enhances its taste and emphasises the rich savory elements. Umami and protein-rich ingredients, like cheese or soy-based dishes are perfect pairings for sake. 

Japan Centre Sake Sommelier Sachiko Koyama is on hand to guide you in the right direction for your first sake food pairing experience, bringing you suggestions for various courses and recommended sakes to pair these with.  

Starter Suggestions

Salmon or salmon roe canape, and caviar.

Recipe Idea:

Salmon roe inari sushi canapes

Sake recommendation:

Tosa John sparkling – a sparkling sake with higher alcohol level

Main Course Suggestions

Chicken yakitori or roast beef.

Recipe Idea:

Chicken yakitori grilled skewers

Sake Recommendation

Gekkeikan Tokusen – served hot – great with equally umami rich foods.

Dessert Suggestions

Salted caramel or vanilla ice-cream

Sake Suggestion

Homare Junmai Koji Long Aged Sake – this is a new sake coming soon to Japancentre.com. Serve by pouring it over the ice-cream. 

Sake, Shochu or Umeshu?

Subscribe to the Japan Centre blog to make sure you don’t miss the final instalment of our Japan Centre Sake Series; Part 4: Sake, Shochu or Umeshu? With the Christmas party season approaching, we’ll be taking a look at some of the creative ways you can enjoy sake, from colourful cocktails, to fruit based sake options such as umeshu and yuzushu. 

Japan Centre have directly imported some of the best sake from the finest breweries in Japan and our in-house sommelier team at Japan Centre Leicester Square will be more than happy to help you select a sake to suit you if you are shopping in-store.

Enjoy all this and more by shopping in-store at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. Alternatively you can get fresh produce delivered straight to your door by shopping online at the Japan Centre website.

Words by Emily Lovell