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Five cold sake to try now

| Mizuho Gormley

Many people ask whether they ought to drink sake hot or cold.

The quick answer? Sake is the only beverage that can be enjoyed at many different temperatures so drink it the way you like!

BUT if you want to enjoy it the way it was intended by the brewers, try cold sake at their specifically recommended temperatures. Light and food-friendly, cold sake is one of the best summer drinks.

Four bottles of cold sake

Before the Showa Era (1926–1989) there were only two ways to describe sake temperature—hiya (roomtemperature) and kan (warm). Modern refrigeration and a variety of sake glasses (aka “vessels”) allow us to sense the nuances of sake. In Japan, there are even special names for every five-degree change on the Celsius scale.

Poring cold sake to a sake cup
Experimenting with the effect of sake vessels on cold sake.

If you have a chance to explore sake this way—and play a memory game to remember all the names for each temperature—it’s a lot of fun! But don’t get too caught up with getting it exactly to the right degree. It’s very easy to enjoy cold sake.

Sake beginners can approach it as either chilled overnight or chilled quickly. If overnight, keep it away from light and strong smells which could affect the sake. And for the quick ice bath, all you need are pantry essentials.

You can quickly chill sake with salt, ice, and water. Don’t forget to put the bottle in a bag to protect the label.

Here are our recommendations for five cold sake to try before the first autumn chill:

Taka “Noble Arrow”

Taka “Noble Arrow”

This junmai from Yamaguchi Prefecture has a big impact. It’s quite crisp and a little sharp, so it serves well as an aperitif for meals with lots of texture and fried components. When sipping this sake for this first time, I craved for schnitzel or a Biergarten-style sausage and pretzel combo. That evening, I had it with a Filipino-style pork belly, but I imagine it would be a solid prelude to spicy chorizo and Spanish paella.

A dish of Filipino Fried pork
Fried food is a good pairing for crisp, clean cold sake.

Tensei “Song of the Sea”

Tensei “Song of the Sea”

Ah, this is a sake I really love. This ginjo from coastal Kanagawa Prefecture is so fresh and lively in the mouth, one can really sense the notes of melon and sea salt. A layered sake but not too complex. It’s very inviting and reminds me of sitting on the seawall in Okinawa watching the tides change, or emerging from an easy afternoon dive.

Senkin “Modern” Muku

Senkin “Modern” Muku

Surprise! You wouldn’t be able to easily tell from the label that this daiginjo sake is your next summer brunch date. On the nose is sweet orange and delicious riceyness followed by an elegant and rich effervescence. This sake is perfect for sushi and sashimi, especially amaebi (sweet shrimp) and hotate(scallop). Serve in a stemless flute for extra flair, along with a side of crème brûlée French toast.

A dish of sushi on counter table in a restaurant
Shrimp and scallops would be an ideal pairing for this sake.

Yoshinogawa “Gokujo” Ginjo

Yoshinogawa “Gokujo” Ginjo

Niigata Prefecture is famous for light and dry sake with a soft mouthfeel so for this bottle, I opted for the quick-chill method. For me, this one is more enjoyable if served not too cold (between 50–60 degrees, not room temperature but warmer than with overnight refrigeration). The aroma of grape with the slight spice of anise is perceivable in a white wine glass. With its medium finish, I enjoyed this so much on its own, but I imagine it would be a good pairing for lightly fried tempura or chilled shrimp cocktail.

A bottle and a glass of Yoshinogawa “Gokujo Ginjo”
Enjoy this smooth sake in a white wine glass.

Hakutsuru “Draft”

Hakutsuru “Draft”

This simply-designed label is easy to overlook but don’t miss it. This is a rich and dry junmai that is aged for one month to result in a more refined, smooth sake that is perfect for weeknights in the backyard. It’s a staple sake at a great price point and many drinkers love this chilled or on the rocks.

Which cold sake have you tried and loved? Let us know at #tippsysake!

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