What is sake?

Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented rice. Often referred to as “Japanese rice wine,” sake (pronounced “sah-keh”).

Sake was once a sacred entity that played the role of linking deities with people. These days, while it is a very familiar product that the Japanese enjoy as part of daily life, it has retained its sacred value and is always present at traditional events, religious rituals, weddings, and other celebrations that mark milestones.

How should I drink sake?

Any way you like! Even though sake is traditionally poured into square wooden boxes or small sake cups, you can enjoy sake from a wine glass. Some are even convenient for drinking straight from the bottle.

Should sake be served warm or cold?

Ginjoshu, Namazake, and Namachozoshu are best enjoyed chilled. Other varieties can be enjoyed chilled, at room temperature, or warm, depending on your taste. Sake is also great when served with ice. This makes sake one of few alcoholic beverages in the world that can be enjoyed at various temperatures.

Is sake a wine, beer, or spirit?

None of the above! Sake is in a class of its own. It is made from fermented rice, so in that way, it similar to beer, but the taste is more like that of wine.

How does the alcohol content of sake compare to wine?

While those unfamiliar with sake can mistake it for a spirit because of its often clear appearance, sake is generally only slightly stronger than wine. The general ABV for sake is between 14% and 16%, and our main export products have an ABV of 12% to 15%.

Is sake meant to be sipped or taken as a shot?

Sake is meant to be sipped. It is a surprisingly versatile beverage that shows different sides to its character depending on the temperature at which it is consumed, the food it is served with and the cup it is consumed from. In order to thoroughly savor this depth, sake is best sipped.

What food goes well with sake?

While the first cuisine that springs to mind is Japanese, sake has long been said in Japan to go with any kind of food. It goes superbly with French, Italian, Chinese, and cuisine from many other countries. We hope you enjoy finding your own perfect combination. Hakutsuru advocates three research-based theories concerning the compatibility of sake and cuisine, namely balance, wash, and harmony.

How is sake produced?

You can find out how sake is produced here.

  • Polishing

    All rice must be polished to remove its hard outer bran and reveal the soft starch-rich cells inside. This mechanical process was once done in a simple machine powered by a toji’s foot but is now done within vast vertical cone polishers.

  • Steaming

    Rice is steamed during which it absorbs water, and its starch is softened. This was once done in a large, perforated vat called a koshiki over a cauldron of boiling water, but today is done in a more controlled manner within a pair of vertical continuous rice steamers.

  • Culture

    A portion of steamed rice is taken to become the koji culture. The traditional method is still used for our Dai Ginjo sake. Over many days, in a hot humid room, toji work on the rice to reduce variations in its temperature and moisture content. The movement and rotation of trays of steamed rice becomes an elegant dance when done by an experienced worker.

  • Cooling

    The steamed rice and koji must be cooled down before they are used in the mash. In Nada sake brewing is carried out in stacked warehouses which are configured with their long sides facing the prevailing cold northerly winds. This blows in through large open windows on the northern side and out of windows on the opposite walls.

  • Seed Mashing

    Our sakes are made using the sokujo process, which takes about 10 days in jacketed stainless steel tanks to promote fermentation. Pure yeast culture is mixed with water and koji, and soon steamed rice is added and the temperature is adjusted constantly until the yeast starter is ready. We call this mixture shubo, which also means the “sake mother”.

  • Main Mashing

    The shubo is added to more steamed rice, koji and water where it is fermented over several weeks in stainless steel tanks to become the moromi. The temperature of the mash room is maintained at 10-12ºC and the tanks are cooled within a coiled jacket of cold water pipes.

  • Pressing

    The main mash aged in our fermentation room is poured into a press which separates out the freshly pressed “new sake”.

  • Filtering

    One of the most significant moments for filtering is after pressing. This removes the cloudiness to make clear sake. Our nigori sake is filtered with a broader mesh, leaving it milky white.

Is sake suitable for vegans and free of gluten, colorings, flavorings and preservatives?


Does sake have a best before date?

No, sake does not have a best before date. Thanks to the antimicrobial action of the alcohol in sake it can be stored for a long period, and as long as there are no issues with the storage, sake will generally retain the same flavor as when it is bottled for at least roughly one year. If you have any questions about sake that you have purchased, please feel free to ask us.

How should I store sake?

Avoid storing sake in places subject to ultraviolet light from sunshine or fluorescent lamps or other sources, and in places subject to vibration and strong smells. Sake should be stored at less than 59°F.
After opening, be sure to replace the cap firmly, store it in a cool, dark place, and consume within one week.