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Tasting Tips

Sake set

Just as the Japanese typically serve their green tea in a special teapot and drink it from special cups, there are also unique utensils specially suited to the enjoyment of Japanese sake.

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The decanter used to pour sake is known as an o-choshi or tokkuri. The mouth of this container is made intentionally small, both to facilitate smooth pouring and prevent the warmed sake inside from cooling. The vessel’s design ensures that its contents remain warm until the last drop has been consumed.

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At one time small, shallow cups called sakazuki, were primarily used to sip sake. Originally fashioned from red clay, they later evolved into cups made of red lacquer or ceramic.

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Barely bigger than a thimble, the typical o-choko cup enables one to drink its contents in one gulp.

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A somewhat larger cup than the o-choko is the gui-nomi. This cup holds enough for two to three mouthfuls, making it ideal for those especially fond of sake. It’s also great for drinking sake with a meal.

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A wine glass is also recommended for serving aromatic varieties of sake like ginjo-shu and daiginjo-shu,. Like wine, the full bouquet of these types of sake can be revealed by gently swirling the liquid in the glass. Drinking sake from a wine glass also accentuates the subtle changes in fragrance that occur with each passing moment and brings out the full flavor of the sake.

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Another vessel that definitely adds to the sake experience is the masu. This is a square wooden, box-like cup typically made of cedar. The aroma of the wood meshes with the fragrance of the sake to create a drinking experience that’s altogether different from what you would get drinking from a ceramic o-choko. It’s an experience that brings one back to the roots of this drink so steeped with history. Since the aromas of the wood will compete with the aromas of ginjo-shu and daiginjo-shu, a masu may not be the best choice for these types of sake.

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Another unusual and ingeniously devised drinking vessel is the kiki-choko. This white cup with two blue concentric circles painted at the bottom, is chiefly used when taste-testing different varieties of sake. The unique pattern enables the taster to better evaluate the color, clarity, and purity of the sake.