​Also see: Best Carbon Steel Woks

What is Sake?

Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made by fermenting rice. While it is often referred to as wine, the method for brewing Sake is quite different than your typical wine. Sake also has a significantly higher ABV (alcohol by volume) than Sake.

To make Sake, the rice is first milled so that it contains mostly starch. Fungus, which helps convert the starch into sugar is then added (it sounds gross, but the finished product is not)! Once the starch has converted into sugar, the sugar is allowed to ferment in the presence of yeast.

The quality, taste, and smell of the resulting Sake depend largely on the fermentation process. One of the most critical factors is the amount of milled rice that is used. The more milled Sake rice, the brighter and more delicate the flavor of the resulting beverage.

Some Sake brewers also choose to add additional alcohol to the already fermented alcohol. This doesn’t increase the brew’s alcohol level, though. If the brewer selects the right alcohol, it only works to add richness and flavor. It also improves the shelf life of the Sake.

The 10 Best Japanese Sake Sets

Rated as Amazon’s Top Choice, this is our favorite Sake set, too. It includes a Sake server and four cups. It is microwave and dishwasher safe because who wants to do dishes after a night of enjoying Sake?

The designs on the set are incredibly lovely. While the description says that the blossoms are red and white, they are more on the pink side. The flowers have light pink petals with a magenta center.

The flask pours correctly and does not drip down the side. The tokkuri can hold up to eight fluid ounces of Sake at a time while the ochoko have a capacity of two fluid ounces each.

This Sake set by OliaDesign comes in a beautiful gift box, so you can give it as a gift or enjoy it in your own home.

The only complaint against this little set is that the carafe only holds eight ounces. This is a bit small for avid Sake drinkers, but it’s so cute, so how can you resist?

While traditional Sake sets have ceramic cups and porcelain flasks, this combo is made entirely of ceramic. It includes one Sake server and four cups.

A blue traditional Asian-looking dragon adorns the white cups and flask. The pieces are handcrafted in Japan and arrive in a decorative box with the same dragon design. This makes them a great gift or the perfect addition to your China cabinet.

All of the pieces are dishwasher and microwave safe, but to elongate their lifespan, it’s best to hand wash. Amazon doesn’t say how many fluid ounces the flask holds, but it does state that it is 5.5” in height, so I am assuming that it holds about eight fluid ounces.

If you’re into cats, Happy Sales also has the same set with a Maneki Lucky Cat design. This set is gorgeous, durable, and perfect for serving Sake to friends.

This set screams “Elegance!” It is crafted entirely from ceramic. The inside of the cup and the carafe are black, and the outside is red. A Japanese poem in black characters is etched on the outside of the pieces.

The cups hold about 1.5 fluid ounces, and the bottle has a capacity of seven fluid ounces. Both the ochoko and tokkuri are microwave safe as well as dishwasher safe (on the top rack). Be careful if heating in the microwave, though, as Sake heats up very quickly, and overheating could cause the beverage to lose its flavor and aroma.

The set arrives in a decorative navy blue gift box, making it an ideal housewarming gift (or gift for yourself)!

If you’re into artsy pieces, this is the set for you. The pieces look as if they are made of clay. The carafe has flat sides for easy grasping, and the cups have ridges for comfortability. 

Cute, cute cute! This set includes four Sake cups and a flask. The height of the bottle is 5.13 inches, and each cup is 1.77 inches.

Its unique contemporary design will fit right into any home décor. This combo would also make a great gift. The top and insides of the flask and cups are glazed red. The bottom is a shiny gray ceramic speckled with black dots. There is white and red Chinese calligraphy on the pieces which reads “Fu” or “fortune.”

You can place these pieces in the microwave if you are in the mood for warm Sake and pop them in the dishwasher after a night of fun. The tokkuri does a pretty good job at keeping your Sake warm thanks to its narrow neck. And because they are packaged very well and are of high quality, you don’t have to worry about any cracks or chips as the set makes its way from China to your home.

Enjoy your favorite Sake with this elegant five-piece set. All pieces are crafted entirely from porcelain and are dishwasher safe.

You have several design options if you decide upon this five-piece set. One option features two cats, the other has Japanese script, and the last features a green bird perched atop a red cherry blossom. All of the designs are set upon a gold-speckled white backdrop.

The carafe is 4.9 inches tall, and the sake cups are 1.8 inches. The tokkuri has an elegant curve and narrow neck, which prevents warmth or cold from escaping. The small bowl-shaped ochoko allow you to consume the entire drink quickly, as Sake flavors and aromas change as the temperature changes.

This Sake set is charming and delicate yet feels durable and sturdy in your hand. All of this comes packaged in a simple yet classy box.

For the price, this is a fantastic deal.

This unique set is beautiful and delicate. It includes a white tokkuri and four different colored ochoko – blue, red, green, and white. For additional character and charm, a piece of twine is tied around the neck of the tokkuri.

Japanese Kanji characters for summer, fall, winter, and spring are etched on each piece. The glazed cups complement the feeling of each season: green for grass during the spring, blue for ocean water in the summer, red for the leaves in the fall, and white for snow during the winter.

The ochoko are two inches in diameter and 1¾ in height. The tokkuri is six inches tall. Unlike some of the sets, this carafe has a 16-ounce capacity, which is pretty great. All of the pieces are crafted in Japan.

While the Kotobuki claims that the pieces are dishwasher safe, I personally wouldn’t risk putting this beautiful set in the dishwasher. It has a very smooth finish; the only exception is the brown sections on the cups, which is slightly gritty.

Looking for an aesthetically pleasing Asian earthenware décor for your home or a stylish Sake set to toast with your loved ones? Look no further than this chic Japanese designed Sake.

Crafted from the highest quality ceramic, this beautiful Sake set comes packaged in a black compartmentalized box, making it the perfect housewarming gift. It would also make a great addition to your home’s China cabinet.

The Sake flask is five-inches tall and has a five-fluid ounce capacity. This is much smaller than the bottles of the other sets. The cups measure 1.75 inches and are two inches in diameter.

Made in Japan, this durable yet delicate set has an authentic Japanese feel. The pieces are multicolored – the body is white with gold speckles. There are also abstract-looking branches with pink flower blossoms.

We don’t recommend placing this set in the microwave or dishwasher. If you want to serve warm or hot Sake, just boil a pot of water and put the carafe in the pan for a few minutes until the drink is warm.

Did you love the design of the Atlantic Collectibles Sake set but wished that the backdrop was green instead of white? LOL, Well, you’re in luck!

This set includes five pieces: one five-inch bottle and four 1.25-inch cups. The carafe holds about six fluid ounces, and the cups hold about two fluid ounces. The only issue is that because the carafe only holds about six ounces and the cups hold about two, you cannot fill all four cups; instead, if you want to use all four cups, you should only fill them about halfway.

The tokkuri has a green background with pink cherry blossoms as do the ochoko. It has a smooth yet slightly textured finished, and the set looks a lot better in person than it does in pictures.

All of the pieces are made of porcelain and is manufactured in Japan. Since they are porcelain, they are also microwave and dishwasher safe. However, for more even warming, we suggest just placing the carafe in a pot of boiling water if you wish to serve warm Sake. You can also heat dry in the dishwasher with no ill effects.

This set is super duper adorable! Like really cute!

The body of the cups and carafe is white with a red, cloud-like embellishment. Then, the cutest blue and white blowfish that you’ve ever seen adorn all of the pieces.

The set includes five pieces: a 5.5-inch carafe and 1.75-inch cups. While the product specifications don’t indicate the holding capacity of the carafe, we assume it holds between six to eight fluid ounces. The cups hold about two fluid ounces each.

It comes in a gift box, making it the perfect housewarming gift. But since it’s so cute, you might want to buy a set for yourself as well.

The only complaint against this set is that some of the pieces look poorly colored. On some of the cups, the eyes of the blowfish look gray instead of black. Other than that, though, this set is great for serving Sake to your friends.

While traditional Sake sets have ceramic cups and porcelain flasks, this combo is made entirely of ceramic. It includes one Sake server and four cups.

A blue traditional Asian-looking dragon adorns the white cups and flask. The pieces are handcrafted in Japan and arrive in a decorative box with the same dragon design. This makes them a great gift or the perfect addition to your China cabinet.

All of the pieces are dishwasher and microwave safe, but to elongate their lifespan, it’s best to hand wash. Amazon doesn’t say how many fluid ounces the flask holds, but it does state that it is 5.5” in height, so I am assuming that it holds about eight fluid ounces.

If you’re into cats, Happy Sales also has the same set with a Maneki Lucky Cat design.

This set is gorgeous, durable, and perfect for serving Sake to friends.

Drinking Sake

So now that you’ve ordered your Sake set, here’s how to drink it and which foods it is best paired with.

If you are not drinking alone, it’s customary for someone else to fill and refill your “ochoko” and vice versa. When the server pours the drink, hold your cup out slightly. Do the same if you are requesting a refill.

“Kampei” (or “cheers” in Japanese) is the typical toast when drinking Sake. Then, hold the cup close to your face to take in its aroma, take a small sip, and savor the taste in your mouth before swallowing.

If you want to serve warm or hot Sake, you can do so by placing the entire flask (“Tokkuri”) in a pot of boiling water.

You may also choose to enjoy drinking Sake while enjoying some of your favorite dishes. While the beverage combines particularly well with spicy dishes, you can combine it with practically anything. Saki experts claim that Junmai pairs well with seafood and sushi while Junmai Daiginjo goes well with meats.

The Origins of Sake

Sake originated in Japan and has been around for over 2,000 years. It was initially deemed “the drink of the gods” and continues to be one of Japan’s most popular drinks.

Brewing Sake began around 300 B.C. when wet rice cultivation was first introduced. Though the origins of the alcoholic beverage can be traced back to the Chinese, it was the Japanese who first started mass producing this tasty yet simple concoction.

As mentioned before, making Sake involves polishing or milling rice kernels. The milled kernels are then cooked in clean water and made into a sort of pap.

The earliest Sake brewing was pretty nasty. The entire community would chew rice and nuts and spit the mixture into a communal tub. This Sake was called “kuchikami no sake,” which means “chewing for mouth sake.” The enzymes in the saliva facilitated the fermentation process. While this method for making Sake was actually part of a Shinto religious ceremony, this process of communal tub-spitting was discontinued when it was found that adding Koji (a mold enzyme) and yeast could cause the rice to ferment as well.

At its origins, Sake was produced and consumed on an individual and familial basis. However, further on down the line, Sake rice became a large-scale agricultural product. Nevertheless, even with its widespread production, Sake was mainly consumed by the upper classes. The beverage also continued being used in Shinto religious ceremonies. It would be offered as a sacrifice to the gods and was also used to purify the temple. Additionally, on the day of their marriage, brides and grooms would consume Sake in a process known as Sansankudo.

Fast-forward several centuries into the twentieth century. At this time, a press replaced the traditional canvas bags that were used to squeeze out the liquid from the rice mash, yeast, and koji mixture. Shortages of rice during World War II also changed the way Sake was made: glucose and pure alcohol were introduced to the rice mash in order to increase the production yield and brewing time. Although this practice was born of necessity, it continues to be used today.

While the brewing process and availability of Sake has changed through the years, its importance in Japanese culture has not. From its origins, Sake has been a drink of family, friendship, and reverence, consumed to mark important occasions. Because the beverage is meant to be enjoyed with those one holds dear, tradition holds that one must never pour their own Sake. This culturally and historically significant drink has been enjoyed in Japan for millennia and is now being enjoyed internationally. 

Selecting the Right Bottle of Sake

Undiluted Sake contains an ABV of 14 to 20 percent. When sold by most manufacturers, the drink is diluted by combining it with water.

Sake tastes unlike any other beverage on the market, and it may be an acquired taste for some. Nevertheless, because many factors affect the flavor, quality, and aroma of the drink, it is important to try different kinds of Sake before deciding on your preference (or before writing it off altogether).

Fresh Sake usually has a better taste than koshu (aged) Sake, which typically tastes rougher and stronger.

Another way to know the flavor of the Sake is by referring to the Nihonshun-do. Nihonshun-do describes the sugar level – or sweetness – of the beverage. Also known as the Sake Meter Value (or SMV), a +5 would indicate a relatively dry taste while a -2 would be rather sweet.

Regardless of your palate and preference, there is likely a Sake that you will fancy. Even if you don’t prefer to drink your Sake straight, you can always mix it to create your very own cocktail. You can also infuse your Sake with flavors and spices to create different notes.

How Sake is Categorized

Unlike wines, which are categorized by the variety of grapes used, Sake is classified by how much the various rice strains are milled. To put it more plainly, if you eat white rice, about 10 percent of the rice grain has been milled. All rice is brown rice, but milling gives it its white appearance.

Sake rice has been milled at least twice as much as traditional white rice. The reason why rice used for Sake must be milled is that each grain of rice contains starch. Starch converts into sugar, and sugar converts into alcohol. However, unless it's milled, the starch is surrounded by layers of fat, minerals, proteins, lipids, and vitamins. While these things are good for you, they’re not good for making Sake. So, the more impurities you remove, the more refined your Sake will be.

Class X Sake: Made using rice, mold, and water. All Sakes in this class are “Junmai,” meaning that brewer’s alcohol has NOT been added.

  • Junmai – Rice has been milled 30% and 70% of the original grain remains.

  • Junmai Ginjo – 40% of rice has been polished, and 60% of each grain remains.

  • Junmai Dai Ginjo – 50% has milled and 50% of grain remains

Class Y Sake: Sakes made using rice, mold, water, and brewer’s alcohol

  • Honjozo – The rice has been polished 30% and 70% of each grain remains.

  • Ginjo – 40% polished and 60% remaining

  • Dai Ginjo – The rice has been milled 50% with 50% of each grain remaining.

Other Types of Sake

  • Nama – Sake is usually pasteurized twice. Nama Sake is pasteurized once.

  • Nigori – Sake that hasn’t been filtered resulting in a cloudy appearance.

  • Genshu – Sake that is undiluted by water to lower alcohol content.

  • Taru – Sake that is fermented then placed in cedar casks to give it a woodsy taste.

  • Kinpaku – Sake with gold flakes, used mainly in celebrations and lavish occasions.

  • Koshu – Sake that has been purposefully aged or matured.

  • Kijoshu – Sake that is sweeter and considered an after-dinner beverage.

Serving Sake

Traditionally, SakiSake is served from porcelain flasks known as tokkuri. The drink is poured into small ceramic cups called ochoko or sakazuki and sipped. You can also chill Sake and drink it from a wine glass.

Sake can be served at room temperature, warm, hot, or chilled. This usually depends on the quality of alcohol being served, the season, and, of course, the drinker’s preference. However, high-quality Sake should always be served chilled or at room temperature because adding heat can cause the beverage to lose its flavor and aroma.

To preserve its freshness, store bottles of Sake in cool, dry, and dark areas. It’s also best to finish an opened bottle, so bottom’s up!

And now that you’ve been schooled on how Sake is made, the best way to find your personal preference, and how to serve Sake, we present you with the best Japanese Sake sets.

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