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Sake Etiquette 101

When perusing the drink menu at your favorite Japanese steakhouse, you’ve probably noticed a drink called sake on the menu. Whether you’ve tried this beverage before or haven’t yet had the pleasure, you might enjoy learning about how sake is served in Japan and the customs it’s associated with. Read on for an introduction to sake etiquette.

Serving Sake

Traditionally, sake was served warm. Today, however, this alcoholic drink made from rice is typically served chilled to help preserve the flavor profiles. Different types of sake will taste best at various temperatures, but most premium varieties that you can find will have optimum flavor when served between lightly chilled and room temperature.

Pouring Sake

Just like with beer, it’s customary in Japan to pour for others and avoid pouring for oneself. While this can take some getting used to, you may find that this tradition has appeal after you grow accustomed to it. For sake, small cups, called guinomi or ochoko, and a serving vessel, called a tokkuri, are used for drinking and serving. The vessel is kept at the table to allow for refills, and because people pour for one another, this can promote social bonding. When in a formal situation, the pourer holds the tokkuri with two hands. Also, the person whose cup is being refilled lifts the guinomi with one hand and steadies it with the other.

Drinking Sake

The extent to which etiquette is followed depends on the formality of the situation. However, even for an informal gathering, it is customary for attendees to pour the sake for each other. If you plan to enjoy a night out in Japan and partake of sake, keep in mind that your companions may try to fill your glass each time you empty it, so drink with caution!

Come and give sake a try at House of Genji’s cocktail lounge, or enjoy this beverage as your teppanyaki meal is prepared right at your table. Call (408) 453-8120 to make your reservation at our Japanese restaurant in San Jose.


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