Jessie Sheerah, Associate brand manager at renowned Oregon based brewery Sake One, is one of the most helpful and friendly people you could hope to meet.
She was gracious enough to provide us with a bottle of their cult favorite G Joy sake to use in our photoshoot. You can bet we cracked that baby open as soon as the shoot was over and shared a decadent cup of sake together.
Here, Jessie shares some of the history behind sake as well as the importance in each type of Sake ritual.
"Saké was once known in Japan as the “drink of the gods” and has deep ties within religion, ceremony, traditions and everyday settings bringing people together. For both those pouring and those receiving, there are many important manners surrounding saké drinking, such as the saké temperature, the serving vessel used, how the drink is poured, and even how to hold the cup.
For those receiving saké:
Saké is often served in a small ceramic cup called an “ochoko”. When being served, hold the ochoko with your right hand and support the bottom of it with the palm of your left hand, or vice versa. The key is to hold the cup with both hands, which shows respect. (This practice applies to many situations. i.e. You also give and receive business cards with two hands.)
Before drinking, everyone should have a full cup. The host may raise their cup and toast with “Kanpai!” before the first sip. This term is derived from a Chinese word meaning to “drain your cup of saké.”
Once your cup has been filled, it’s good manners to take a sip before placing the cup down.
Before receiving more saké, drink what remains in your cup.
For those pouring saké:
Hold the saké bottle or a ceramic carafe called a “tokurri” in your right hand and place your left hand near the mouth for support.
When pouring, start with a trickle, then to a flow, and end with a trickle. This helps control the pour.
In Japan, “tejaku” is the practice of filling your own glass, and it can be considered rude. As a sign of hospitality, it’s the responsibility of your companions to fill your glass.
A few don’ts: Don’t drink straight from the tokkuri. This is only a serving vessel. Don’t blend sake from multiple tokkuri. Don’t peek into the tokkuri. All considered poor etiquette.
Saké can be enjoyed at a variety of temperatures, depending on the type of saké and/or the drinker’s preference.
Junmai style saké is the most versatile and can be enjoyed chilled, room temperature, and warm. Most Junmai saké will become fuller, richer and start to show complex umami flavors when warmed.
Rather than warming the saké directly, it’s best to heat the saké-filled vessel in hot water. Bring water to a boil in a kettle or saucepan over medium heat. Pour boiling water into a medium-sized glass, metal, or ceramic bowl. Pour your saké into the vessel and place it in the warm water for about 2-4 minutes, until the temperature of the saké increases to about 104°F. Be careful not to let the saké get too hot or the alcohol will burn off and ruin its delicate flavors.
While Junmai style saké is wonderful at a variety of temperatures, Junmai Ginjo or Junmai Daiginjo style saké is best served chilled to preserve and enhance the delicate floral and fruity aroma and flavors. Some saké is specifically brewed to chill at about 50°F, but exercise caution as making saké too cold can mask the delicious flavors.
We hope this helps inform your next Sake ritual. It is a beautiful and ancient tradition that we are very happy still takes place today.