How About a little Warmth to Bring the Best out of Sake?

Greetings sake lovers!

It finally feels like we have felt the last of winter’s chill doesn’t it! — at least for this year anyway.

Compared to wine, beer, spirits and other libations, sake can be enjoyed at a wide range of different temperatures. To just drink sake in the same old boring chilled way all the time is a waste! We thought we would teach you how to warm sake using what you have to hand. Don’t worry if you think you have read a duplicate of this article already on KURAND website, this one is a much more in depth version: previous versions skip over the heating methodology.

How Many Temperature Variations are There?

Sake comes with a myriad of different temperature zones to challenge.
The Warmed Sake Temperature Guide (the term in brackets is the Japanese term)

Sun Bathed(Hinata Kan) 30°C A nice gentle warmth. Enhances faint aromas.
Body Temp (Hitohada Kan) 35°C Warm to touch. Brings out ricey (nutty / herby) flavours or sakes with a fullness.
Warm / Shower Water Temp (Nurukan) 40°C Lukewarm. Brings out aroma.
Heated (Joukan) 45°C You should see a few wisps of water vapour. Opens up tense flavours.
Hot (Atsukan) 50°C Should be lightly steaming. Hot to touch (take care!) Adds a crispness to the finish / sharpens the aroma.
Piping Hot (Tobikirikan) 55°C The vessel it is in is hot to handle. (take care! please take care!) Sharpens aroma. Amplifies dryness.

A Quick Spin in the Microwave

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[One 180ml serving at 500W]

Heating from chilled (just removed from the fridge).
Hitohada (35°C) 60 seconds
Astukan (50°C) 90 seconds
Heating from room temperature
Hitohada (35°C) 40 seconds
Atsukan (50°C) 70 seconds
We recommend heating from room temperature. This can quickly be achieved by popping the sake in a Tokkuri (special flask for sake), filling to about a 7th of the way up) and covering with foil.

Probably best to avoid heating on a too high wattage.

Pop in a Saucepan


1. Fill a Tokkuri up to about a 9th of the way up and cover with cling film. (this stops the aroma from escaping).

2. Boil some water in a saucepan. (don’t put the Tokkuri in just yet!) to cover half of the Tokkuri.

3. When the water boils, turn off the heat and pop in the Tokkuri.

4. Although it will ultimately depend on what the Tokkuri is made of, it should be possible to reach about 45 degrees in 2-3 minutes. (when the bottom is slightly hot to touch [be careful!])

Adjust the immersion time depending on the desired temperature, e.g. longer time for hot or shorter time for cooler.

Avoid boiling the sake. Past 60 degrees, sake loses all its flavour, character and aroma, i.e. you’ll just end up boiling it to death.

Here at KURAND SAKE MARKET, we use a warming machine (Shukkanki).

1. Pour your desired amount into the silver cup called a Chirori.

2. Insert one of the special sake thermometers provided. Leave it to do its job.

The thermometer readings (see this post’s header photograph):
The blue zone = Nurukan
The colourless zone in between = Joukan
The red zone = Atsukan

3. Remove when it reaches your desired temperature. Pour from the Chirori into your desired receptacle.

When at KURAND SAKE MARKET, why not ask our staff for their recommendations.

Mushikan (steaming method)


1. Pour the sake into a Tokkuri and insert into a steamer or steaming basket.

Remove when the sake reaches the desired temperature.

This method is recommended for real imbibers because it does a really good job of maintaining the alcohol aroma.

Direct-Heating Method


1. Prepare a saucepan or kettle.

2. Pour the sake into the saucepan and apply to the naked flame.

3. Remove once you achieve the desired temperature and turn off the heat.

Food that Tastes Better with Atsukan

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With warm food, drink warm sake; with chilled foods, drink chilled sake; it is recommended not to mix different temperatures.

Food Pairing Recommendations

• Stews : (boiled tofu etc), simmered dishes (yellowtail and daikon radish in soy sauce, sardines in soy sauce), flame-grilled dishes (samma (Pacific Saury, Shishamo), steamed dishes (Chawan Mushi [savoury steamed egg in custard], Dobinmushi (food boiled in an earthenware pot).
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to pair with fishy dishes; the Atsukan style mitigates fishy aromas.

• Sashimi (tuna, white fish, shellfish), flame-grilled dishes (samma (Pacific Saury, Shishamo), boiled fish (simmered sea bream head, sardines in soy sauce etc), sake delicacies (salted fish entrails, shutou [a dish of slipjack tuna entrails mixed with honey, soy sauce, mirin, onions etc]).

Being able to enjoy sake at so many different temperatures, in so many ways is just one of the many charms of sake. ♪

Why not give it a try, move out of your sake comfort zone —and get the most out of your sake life here at KURAND SAKE MARKET