Common Sake Misconceptions Debunked
For most Westerners, sake is shrouded in mystery. While some realize that the alcoholic beverage is derived from rice, most people’s knowledge ends there.
We’re here to set the record straight and debunk the top myths and misconceptions about sake.
MYTH: Sake has a significantly higher alcohol content than wine.
FACT: Sake’s alcohol content varies based on the brewer, but most sakes have an alcohol by volume (abv) of ~16%. While this is slightly higher than wine (which ranges from 12–14% abv), the difference between alcohol in sake and wine is very minor. Additionally, sake is typically served in a smaller, 3oz glass, whereas wine is traditionally served in larger, 5oz glasses. This means that a 3oz glass of sake actually has less alcohol than a 5oz glass of wine.
MYTH: Sake should be served in a shot glass as a ‘shooter’
FACT: The practice of taking sake ‘shots’ was developed through consumption of bad-tasting, poor-quality sake. Some mass-produced sake brands are so unpalatable that consumers turned to ‘shots’ and sake bombs to mask the taste.
High quality sake should be sipped and savored, similar to the way one might enjoy a quality martini. It’s worth investing in traditional sake glasses, which provide the optimal drinking experience and allow sake’s unique flavors to shine through.
MYTH: Sake only pairs well with Japanese food
FACT: While sake certainly goes well with Japanese food, it can be paired with a wide range of cuisines, including Greek food, Chinese food, Spanish food, and even traditional American foods. Sake has a delicate, savory flavor to it, which goes well with many common appetizers such as salads, picked vegetables, olives, and caviar.
MYTH: All sake should be served warm
FACT: The ideal temperature to drink sake varies based on the type and quality of sake. While many cheaper, low-quality sakes are often consumed warm, most premium sakes should be served chilled. For details on the best temperature to consume sake, consult your local wine or sake shop. Additionally, most restaurants will take away the guesswork and serve sakes at their optimal temperature.
MYTH: Sake gets better with age
FACT: Most sake is actually best consumed within 1–2 years of bottling. Drinking sake close to its date of production helps maximize sake’s freshness and flavors.
MYTH: Sake is a type of spirit
FACT: Sake is not a spirit — it is a brewed beverage similar to beer. High quality sake is produced by traditional Japanese brewmasters, many of which have spent decades dedicated to the craft of brewing sake. For example, the brewers at Kakeya, a premium sake brand, have passed down the craft of sake brewing for generations!
Overall, the best way to learn more about sake is to taste, taste, taste! The more you taste and try, the closer you’ll get to becoming a sake expert!