One of the best things about sake is that it can be enjoyed warm.
But what is it that makes sake enjoyable when it’s warm, and at what temperature is it best served?
There are 5 important things you should know before preparing warm sake.
1. Warm sake changes its flavor significantly
To understand how warm sake changes its flavor profile, watch this video:
As described in the video, you would notice that warm sake tastes different from that of room temperature sake. That’s because taste elements vary at different temperatures.
This means that a certain type of sake may become your favorite even if you normally don’t like sake chilled or at room temperature. A typical example is very acidic sake. You may taste that it’s not balanced in sweetness and savoriness at room temperature. But when served warm, the flavors will balance since sweetness and savoriness also increase when the temperature increases. With this in mind, many breweries aim to make the kind of sake that can also be enjoyed warm.
2. Sake taste varies at different temperatures
A sake’s original and well-balanced taste is best enjoyed at room temperature. In general, warming makes it more fragrant and savory. But different temperatures also bring out different qualities.
The following serving temperatures bring out the corresponding changes in sake:
Do not heat sake beyond 130℉ (55℃) or the flavors will not be perceived anymore.
3. There are two types of sake that taste great when warmed
You may have come across the following instruction:
“Premium sake should be taken chilled and heating should be reserved for not-so-good ones.”
The truth is, heating works well for sake regardless of the quality. It’s up to you which sake is best for your palate. There are two types that are good to heat for beginners.
a. Dry, thick, and savory (umami) sake
Earthy, umami-rich sake with strong elements of bitterness, acidity, and/or sweetness undergo dramatic changes when warmed.
Kimoto and yamahai types, or aged sake, become delectably smooth and supple in texture.
Junmai is also a good candidate because of its thicker texture, and heating also accentuates its sweetness.
b. Light and dry sake
Some of the light and dry sake, like Honjozo and Futsu-shu (ordinary sake), are also recommended for gentle warming for it draws out undesirable flavors and enhances texture.
<Should Ginjo be warmed?>
Some Ginjo (the highest quality sake) can be gently warmed and enjoyed at temperatures lower than 105℉ (40℃). But there are also many people claiming hot ginjois very good.
To find which sakes are good for heating, we recommend that you follow the recommendation on the label or try it out for yourselves.
As you experience more, you will understand which sakes you like to consume warm.
4. There are two ways of warming sake
- Put sake in a sake bottle (tokkuri) and into a hot water bath for a few minutes.
- The sake bottle should be filled 80-90% rather than full. (Sake volume increases when heated)
- Wrap the bottle’s mouth with plastic wrap to seal in the aroma.
At 500W, 6 fl oz (180mL) will take about 50 seconds to heat to 113℉ (45℃).
Please note that heating sake using the microwave makes its temperature uneven.
Though this is faster, this method will make your sake drinking less enjoyable.
For a detailed step-by-step method of warming sake, read “Professional Tips to Heating Sake at Home”.
5. A sake warmer set is useful for warming sake
If you are a sake enthusiast and want to enjoy warm sake the authentic Japanese way, you may use a sake warmer. This uses minoware, a type of Japanese pottery.
Sake warmers have an outer and inner sake chamber to control temperature. As you pour hot/cold water into the outer chamber, the sake in the inner chamber will adjust its temperature.
Learn more about sake warmers from our article, “The Best Sake Warmer– Its Features and Types”.
Warming can turn a good sake into a smoother, more supple, and delicious drink, which is nothing short of a breathtaking experience.
If you encounter one with a thick texture and savory taste, try warming it and see how it changes.
Once you master the art of warming sake, your drinking sessions will never be the same again!