What Does Sake Taste Like?

What Does Sake Taste Like?

Sake is a alcoholic drink that is made from fermented rice. It has been consumed with passion by Japanese for over 2500 years. It is referred to by the name of “rice wine” and has similarities to alcohol, beer and wine. If you’re thinking of drinking this booze to the first time, you’re probably thinking about what it might taste like? We’ll be able to answer the question, and also provide other important questions like how to drink it, how to store it, and the ways that different brands differ in their flavor. When you’re done with this article, you’ll surely become a connoisseur of sake.

What does sake taste like?

Sake is a lightly sweet and clean tasting drink that has a balanced blend of savory and astringent flavors. It has a sweet flavor, with a fruity aroma that is not as strong as that of wine. It’s a light drink that is smooth and unassuming, sake is gentler in its taste than spirits, and doesn’t possess the strong, malty flavor that beer packs.

The aftertaste of sake can last for a while, even though there’s no persistent after-taste.

The most important component, Koji, offers an additional, savory flavor that could be described as a mix of mushrooms and potato. Sake’s mild aroma will fade within a few minutes after it is poured into your glass.

Sake is a full, complete body because of the its high concentration of glutamic acid. A typical bottle of sake contains more than twice the acidity of wine. This makes it richer and adds umami to the taste of the beverage.

Most sake producers will provide their products with a “score” indicating its level of dryness or sweetness. This is also known as nihonshudo, which is a measurement of density. It will usually appear at the bottom of the bottle.

A higher Nihonshudo value could produce a more dry tasting sake with a low density.

A lower nihonshudo level can result in a more sweet tasting, higher-density sake

What are the differences between different brands in flavor?

Sake type: How does it taste?

Honjozo: light, smooth-flavored and easy to drink.

Junmai:  a strong flavor with a moderately acidic.

Daiginjo: premium sake, rich and light.

Ginjo: Complex, fragrant, refreshing and light.

Shiboritate: fruity, wild, like white wine.

Futsushu: Rice flavor with earthy notes.

Nigori : Sweet, creamy taste.

How do polishing and junmai impact the flavor of the saki?


In the beginning of making sake it is common for rice to be polished in order to assist in exposing the starchy inner. How does this affect you? The more rice gets polished,  the better becomes the quality level. It is usually (but it is not necessarily) connected with a higher-quality product. When you purchase sake at the supermarket or at eating out, look at the label to see the polished percentage. The best sakes will be polished between 50 and 70 percent.


Quality of ingredients plays a crucial aspect in the sake’s quality and especially rice. Junmai is a term that means pure rice and is sought-after by those who drink sake. A bottle that declares that it is junmai indicates that there are no additional additives or alcohol has been made to make the sake. all that is required are rice yeast, Koji and water.

If we want to determine a similarity to sake, most would say that wine is similar to sake. But, remember that they have some significant distinctions:

Sake’s rich amino acid enhances its umami flavor, making it a perfect option to pair with a variety of food items. Sweet, tart, and salty tastes of Eastern dishes, along with numerous Western foods,  are very well paired with sake.

People who love the smell of a quality bottle will initially be disappointed by the lack of aroma from sake. Instead of a strong and aromatic aroma, it provides the subtle aroma of a fruity, nutty scent. The first sakes were made without any aroma, and it was only in late in 1900s that scents began to be a major feature.

Sake has a milder flavor than wine. It also isn’t a source of tannins which result in a more acidic product.

The alcohol content of sake that is undiluted is between 14-20%. just a bit more than wine which typically falls within the 12-15% range.

The comparison between sake and soju

Sake is often described as tasting like soju, a Korean made clear, distilled beverage. While there are certain similarities, it has distinct differences.

As well as rice, soju can also be constructed from barley and sweet potatoes which gives it a stronger scent than sake.

Soju contains more alcohol between 16 and 53 percent.

Soju is an South Korean beverage, sake is Japanese.

A distillation process is utilized to create soju, whereas sake is made.

How does sake get made?

It took many centuries to make sake. It took centuries to perfect the process.

Rice that is short grain is polished to the point that it becomes white. This is where the quality of the ingredients (rice and the water) is a major factor in the final result.

Mix water, polished rice yeast, and koji mold. let the mixture ferment. In this process, the starch in is reacted with Koji to create sugar. The yeast and sugar are combined to create alcohol.

The rice’s shells are removed to enhance the sweetness, and the liquid is then filtered, pasteurized and finally, it is bottled.

The distinctive process and the ingredients produce the drink that is a punchy drink with undiluted sake that ranges from 14 to 20 percent based on the type.

What sake brands are the most popular?

There are more than 1700 different sake brands currently on the market with approximately 10,000 different items. If you’re looking to find a great introduction to sake, then you should look into Dassai, Kokuryu, Juyondai or Otokoyama and all the other premium brands.

How do you taste sake like the pros?

Though this subject is heatedly debated whether  Sake can be consumed chilled or hot. But, a high-end sake bottle should be consumed cold in order not to alter the flavor or smell.

Testing the flavor and aroma of Sake

The process of tasting sake is quite like wine.

It is recommended to examine whether the color of your drink for the quality. It must be clear. Any brownish hue is an indication of oxidation and is not a good sign.

Inhale the sake by rubbing your nose on the cup. There will be subtle scents that can be from rice that has been fermented, to sweet, floral or fruity. Inhaling the aroma, sip a tiny amount while allowing the liquid to flow over the entire surface of your mouth. By sipping gently, you can aid your taste receptors to detect all flavors. Breathe through your nose as you sip.

Choosing a cup

Sake connoisseurs suggest using glass for top-quality brands because glass is a neutral material and doesn’t affect the flavor of the drink. To get a more traditional look, choose an Ochoko. One variant that is available for this type of cup the Janome Choko which is a simple white cup with two blue lines etched at the bottom. This design allows the drinker to determine the color and the transparency of the drink.

You’ll notice that a Sake cup is small. This is due to Japanese customs. In Japan it’s considered unacceptable to pour the drink you’ve made yourself. On the other hand, it’s an honor to pour a drink to them. With smaller cups, there’s more chance to serve drinks to others and you feel more honored.

Pouring etiquette

In a casual atmosphere it’s all about the atmosphere, but in Japan it is still recommended to observe the tradition of pouring drinks for others and then letting them pour your drink. This is how it’s done so just go with it.

In formal settings, a serving flask (tokkuri) is used to pour sake in smaller glasses (ochoko). If you’re the one to pour, ensure that you hold the tokkuri using both hands. This is considered courteous. If you’re getting the drink by someone else, raise your cup off of the table using one hand, and then support the bottom of the cup with the second hand.

How long can sake be good for?

Sake lasts twelve to 24 months when stored in the refrigerator but it is ideal to drink the bottle within one year after the date of opening. A bottle that is not opened can be stored until 10 years. Find out more about how you can keep sake in storage here.

Wrapping up

To ask “how does sake taste like?” is similar to asking about the taste of wine. It’s a broad topic that is hard to answer in a single sentence. Different brands, the use of ingredients, and manufacturing methods produce a variety of aromas and flavors. Sake is moderately sweet, refreshing tasting drink with a balanced blend of astringent and sweet flavor. And when you actually taste it, you would know what I mean!

Sake isn’t as strong an alcohol in the same way that clear spirits such as whiskey or vodka do. But it’s more powerful than most wines and beer, and can cause a lot of pain if you get carried away.