Sake can be a perfect pairing for a wide range of Japanese cuisine, from curry to sushi. Cool in the summer or warm in the winter, this national drink is truly a beverage for all seasons. Try warming it this fall for a unique treat.

Sake has been the national drink of Japan for over two millennia. Available in a variety of styles, it can also be served in many ways. While summer sake can be cool and refreshing, fall and winter sake can be taken to the next level by adding warmth to the process.

Why Warm Sake?

The tradition of warming sake dates back over 2,000 years. It is said to enhance and bring out the intricate, delicate flavors of the beverage. It also provides a pleasant warmth to the body when the weather is cold. There are many ways to enjoy warm sake, from Hinatakan (room temperature) all the way to Tobikirikan (piping hot).

How to Heat Sake

The best way to warm your sake is on the stove. Boil a pot of water, then remove it from the heat. Fill your decanter with sake until it’s about 90 percent full, then cover the top with plastic wrap and place it inside the pot. Make sure that the water level only covers the bottom half of your decanter. Warm the sake for 3-5 minutes. Once the sake has risen to the plastic wrap, you can carefully remove it from the heat and enjoy.

While it is not recommended to put your sake decanter in the microwave, it is possible to heat it this way if necessary. Simply place plastic wrap over the mouth of the decanter and microwave it for 40 seconds, removing it partway through to swirl the sake and distribute the heat. Be sure not to overheat your sake; not only can this be dangerous, but it can also destroy some of the flavors.

Choosing the Right Sake

Are you unsure which sake is best for serving warm? While many varieties can be heated, some styles are more conducive to the practice. The best bet for heating would be honjozo-shu sake, a light and fragrant variety that is designed to be warmed. Junmai sake is also quite pleasant when heated. However, note that ginjo and daiginjo sake should be served chilled to best embrace their flavors.