Sake serving temperatures

The Meishu Center Yokohama has over 100 different types of nihonshu.  Not all sake is created equal.  Temperature is important in many phases of nihonshu. Temperature is critical in the brewing process, storage, and serving.


For the general beverage consumer there are many “rules” that are directed our way about serving temperatures.  For example, most will agree that white wine is served chilled, and red wine is served room temperature.  There are also cultural factors to consider too.  Let’s take a quick look at why these guidelines exist and how it affects the taste and flavor.  These are not considered “rules”.  Instead this is just an awareness guide that may help bring about the optimal flavors intended fro the producer.  However, taste is an individual preference and some may find that the optimal way is not the best way.




In general, Americans drink their beer much colder than Europeans.  One reason is that the style of beers is different.  However, in most cases the theory is still true if you compare the exact same beer served in the United States compared to Europe.   There are even differences in the US.  Growing up in the southeast of the United States, it can get hot and humid in the summer months.  Lighter beer served “ice cold” is typical and often preferred by customers.  When I moved to Boston, I discovered that locals preferred darker heavier beers, and rarely served at “ice cold” temperatures.


There are many opinions and facts surrounding why American drink their colder than their European counterparts.  Americans drink many of their beverages cold or over ice (sodas, tea, water, etc).  Europeans not as much.  Europe has a long and deep beer culture.  Overall, European beer consumers may have greater knowledge and exposure the high quality beer and have learned to serve and consume it in a manner that best brings out the layers of flavor.




Most prefer to drink their white wine chilled.  So often, bars or restaurants will serve their white whine “cold”.  This often will detract from showcasing the wine’s flavors and aromas.  I lighter wine that may have higher acidity can tolerate colder temperature than the heavier rich chardonnay.  Unfortunately many establishments will take their white wine (that is already stored in a cooler set to a much colder temperature that ideal serving temperature) and use an ice bucket table side for the opened bottle.  Wine lovers often cringe at this.  Higher quality wine is often more complex.  For the flavors to flourish, the serving temperature is something to  be aware of.


Red wines on the other hand can sometimes have a tendency to be served slightly to warm.  It depends on the room temperature of the establishment.  A very slight chill on a red wine is often best for flavor enhancement.



Nihonshu (sake)

Most people know about the temperature guidelines of beer and wine.  But sake is more a mystery and has more variations.  Unlike wine, where whites are served chilled and red is served room temperature, sake is more versatile.  The general consensus is the more premium refined sake is often served chilled.  Like very cold temperatures for cheap beer and wine,  sake served “hot” can cover flaws.  However, when sake is served warm, it can change the aromas and flavor.  Even some refined sakes are sometimes served warm based on personal preference.


In general, temperature extremes have a tendency to mask the flavors of the beverage.  Next time try experimenting with your favorite beverage, and you just might discover a flavor that you may have been overlooking.