Drinking Vessels

Sake is an incredibly versatile drink that can be enjoyed at numerous different temperatures. Therefore, it stands to reason that it is also highly susceptible to changes in both aroma and taste when drank from various different types of vessels. Some types of cups or glasses are simply better suited to certain styles or temperatures. Therefore, this page is a brief guide to the various different types and styles of vessel that you are likely to encounter when drinking sake in a bar or restaurant, and more importantly, which are better suited to the numerous different styles.   

Wine Glass
Wine Glass

With the introduction of Ginjo-Shu to the Japanese market during the 1980s, a trend towards more delicate aromatic styles of sake emerged. Therefore, in recent years we have seen wine glasses becomes more commonplace for use with sake. Their bowl shape helps accentuate the delicate fruity aromas that are often present in the Ginjo category. Wine glasses also allow for an easy visual evaluation of the sake.

Kiki-Choko
Kiki-Choko

Holding the same 180ml capacity as the wooden Masu, this vessel made of white porcelain was designed specifically for assessing the quality of sake, and are mostly used at more formal events and tasting competitions. The distinctive snake-eye ringed bottom (蛇の目) , or blue and white contrasting rings allows an assessor to check the transparency of the Sake. Although they don't enhance aromas in the same way a wine glass does, their large size allows the aromas to be easily assessed.

Bizen Yaki Ochoko
Bizen Yaki Ochoko

Some things are just difficult to explain, and why a Bizen Yaki cup compliments certain Sake so well is certainly one of those things. Out of the numerous different styles of pottery that exists in Japan, Bizen from Okayama Prefecture is said to be of the highest quality. Produced in a kiln fire, they range from a deep brown to a darkish red colour. As they are heat resistant, they are an obvious choice for warm Sake, and tend to help mellow out some varieties. Expensive but worth the outlay.

Wine Glass
Wine Glass

With the introduction of Ginjo-Shu to the Japanese market during the 1980s, a trend towards more delicate aromatic styles of sake emerged. Therefore, in recent years we have seen wine glasses becomes more commonplace for use with sake. Their bowl shape helps accentuate the delicate fruity aromas that are often present in the Ginjo category. Wine glasses also allow for an easy visual evaluation of the sake.

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Origin's Recommendations

Unfortunately, no one cup is perfect for every possible style of Sake. However, in this writers opinion at least, just two vessels from the above list are enough to compliment and even enhance virtually all scenarios.

The first of these is the ever more popular Wine Glass which is perfect for light aromatic Ginjo styles at temperatures ranging from lukewarm to chilled. The large bowl shape from a quality glass allows for the swirling of the liquid in the glass which accentuates the fruity aromas often present in this style.

 

For virtually everything else, a good Ochoko like those made of BizenYaki are perfect for more rustic earthy styles that are often found within the Junmai classification. However, Ochoko are extremely versatile and make for excellent vessels for warm sake. Lastly, these would also be my choice for a good Yamahai or Kimoto, although the wine glass is also good for these two variations when served at room temperature or below.