Does Sake Have Sugar? Sugar Content in Sake

Taylor Markarian

Table of Contents

    Does sake have sugar? Yes, it does. But how much? If you want to drink but you’re keeping a watchful eye on your sugar intake, you may have a tough time finding the answer. Unfortunately for you, alcohol companies — be they wine, sake or anything else — do not have to put the same nutrition labels on their products that food companies do. To make matters even more opaque, not every sake (or wine) is the same. So how are you supposed to know?

    While the only way to know a specific sake’s sugar content is to ask the maker directly, there are some general rules of thumb that can help guide your drinking decisions. You can also read more about sake and health elsewhere on the Tippsy blog if you have more questions.

    How much sugar is in sake?

    Because nutrition facts aren’t as readily available for alcoholic beverages, practically every online resource says something different about how much sugar is in sake. Helpful, right? But for our purposes at Tippsy, we’re going to refer to the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and the National Research Institute of Brewing for our sake data.

    According to them, the average sake consists of 4 grams of sugar per 100 grams of sake. That’s about 1 teaspoon of sugar. To put it into context, 100 grams worth of raspberries (a little less than 1 cup) contains about 4.4 grams of sugar. The big picture: The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar per day for men, and no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar per day for women. So pounding sake — or any other alcohol — isn’t good for you, but enjoying it in moderation can still be part of a healthy diet.

    Sugar in sake vs. wine, beer and other liquors

    Making sake, wine and beer requires the fundamental process of yeast fermenting sugars to create alcohol. There’s no escaping that. However, some brews can get the residual sugar content per 100 milliliters (or grams) down to near zero. Geikkekan, for example, offers what they call a “sugar-free” sake, which contains less than 0.5 milligrams of sugar per 100 milliliters. On the whole, though, the NRIB states that most sake falls within the range of 0.5-4.2 grams per 100 milliliters.

    When it comes to sake sugar content versus wine or beer, sake generally contains more sugar, although it ultimately depends on the individual bottle. The below chart lists the values for each beverage.

    Th chart list the values for each beverage

    However, when we take a look at the values adjusted to the typical pour size of each beverage, this is what we get:

    The chart list the values for each beverage

    On the other hand, liquors such as vodka and whiskey typically contain zero residual sugars because they go one step further than fermentation: distillation.

    Various Japanese sake inside the shelves

    While there’s no way of knowing exactly how much sugar is in a particular bottle of sake unless you ask the brewery, there are ways to make an educated guess. Here are some things you might want to think about if sake sugar content is a concern for you.

    Pick dry sake (higher sake meter value)

    Take a look at the bottle’s sake meter value (SMV). Also called “nihonshudo,” this is a number that helps indicate how sweet or dry a specific sake is. Negative numbers usually mean the sake is on the sweeter side, while positive numbers indicate drier sake.

    A rich and sweet sake like Hakutsuru “Sayuri,” with an SMV of -11, probably has slightly more sugar than a sake like Harushika “Extra Dry,” which has an SMV of +12. And products like Ichinokura “Himezen” Ume, with a super low SMV of -90, can often be assumed to have more sugar than the average sake. (Often, this is to make up for really acidic flavors like that of the ume fruit used in making plum sake.) However, it’s important to note that judging by SMV alone doesn’t necessarily give you the full picture, as factors like acidity level also affect perceived sweetness.

    Pick premium sake (“tokutei meishoshu”)

    You may be aware by now that there are different sake categories. These categories are based on ingredients and rice polishing ratio. Premium sake (“tokutei meishoshu”) can only contain rice, water, koji, yeast, and in some styles, brewing alcohol. Added sugar or sweeteners are legally not allowed.

    The rules are a little looser for “futsushu,” or table sake. This type can include additional ingredients such as sugar, organic acids, amino acid salts, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that all futsushu sake contains these things. Other reasons for a futsushu classification include the grade of the rice and the proportion of brewer’s alcohol. The futsushu Tippsy carries are so labeled not because of added sugars, but for other reasons such as these.

    But if you’re buying sake from somewhere else (but really, why would you?), just keep in mind that added sugars are a possibility with futsushu sake.

    3 high SMV sake bottles

    While the difference in sugar content from one sake to the next can be rather negligible, those who keep a strict diet may want to reach for dry sake with high SMV. (But again, this is not a foolproof way to determine sugar content with 100% accuracy.) The good news is that even if you’re not usually a fan of dry beverages, many sake can be warmed to enhance the perceived sweetness! Here are some recommendations based on this criteria.

    Asabiraki “Suijin”

    Asabiraki “Suijin”

    This junmai from Iwate prefecture has a +10 SMV. It offers notes of toasted malt and fig, and can be enjoyed at a range of temperatures, from cold to hot. Its dryness is enhanced when chilled, and its soft texture is amplified when warmed.

    Harushika “Extra Dry”

    Harushika “Extra Dry”

    With a +12 SMV, this sake’s taste does its name justice. Harushika “Extra Dry” is a junmai with herbaceous and savory qualities that work well with rich foods. If drinking it cold is too dry for you, warm it up!

    Eiko Fuji “Dry Mountain”

    Eiko Fuji “Dry Mountain”

    Are you a fan of light, crisp sake? Eiko Fuji “Dry Mountain” is a clean, fruity honjozo with notes of melon and banana. Enjoy this +10 SMV sake chilled or at room temperature paired with fresh sashimi.

    The sweet gift of sake

    Perhaps one day all alcohol companies will be required to provide nutrition labels, but until then, we hope this and other articles on the Tippsy blog can help you understand what sake is a little bit better. The bottom line is that for the average person, sake sugar content can fit comfortably within the daily recommended amount. (If you are operating on a more limited sugar intake due to medical reasons, however, you should always consult with your doctor.) So sit back, unscrew the top of a beautifully designed bottle and enjoy the sweet gift of sake!


    Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. “A Comprehensive Guide to Japanese Sake.” National Research Institute of Brewing, 2011.

    Hyson, P. Ancrum, S. “Vodka Calories: Servings, Carbs, and Vodka Nutrition Facts.” Miami Herald, 2023.

    “Here’s How Much Sugar Is In Your Whiskey: The Surprising Truth.” Advanced Mixology, 2022.

    Taylor Markarian

    Taylor Markarian

    Taylor Markarian is a culture journalist whose work spans the food and beverage, entertainment and travel industries. She is passionate about world travel and learning about different lifestyles and subcultures across the globe. Markarian is also the author of “From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society” (Mango Publishing, 2019). Explore her work by visiting her portfolio.

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