The Ultimate Guide to Sake Temperature

August 17, 2023

So far in our brief run of sake-based articles, we’ve taken a look at the right vessels for serving and drinking your sake, as well as the different grades and types of sake available. Today, we’re going to discuss another all-important aspect of the sake-drinking experience—the temperature.

Here in the UK, there’s an assumption that sake is always drunk warm, but that’s not the case. Just as there are many types and grades of sake, there are also many different temperatures at which to drink it, with some varieties benefiting from being served at room temperature or even chilled.

In this article, we will talk about the different serving temperatures for sake, as well as how best to heat it and keep it warm.

Sake Temperature Terminology

As with so many aspects of the sake drinking experience, there are many different scales of temperature, each with its own designation. While you don’t need to know all of these terms when drinking sake at home or with friends, they can be useful if you’re planning to order at a restaurant or sushi bar.

Chilled Sake

Chilled sake refers to any sake served at 15°C or below and tends to fall into four distinct categories. These are…

Suzu-hie (15°C)

This translates as "refreshingly cool" and is just below room temperature for the UK.

Hana-bie (10°C)

This translates as "refreshingly cool" and is just below room temperature for the UK.

Yuki-hie (5°C)

This is the lowest temperature most sake drinkers would attempt, with the name meaning "snow chilled."


While not strictly speaking a sake drink, mizore-zake is a semi-frozen version, not unlike an alcoholic Slush Puppy. Indeed, "miszore" itself even means "sleet".

Room Temperature Sake

Of course, the definition of room temperature differs from one country to another. In Japan, it tends to be somewhere in the 20–25°C range—a little higher than what we would call room temperature in the UK.

Room-temperature sake is known as "hiya", which means "cold". If that seems confusing, it is used in comparison with heated sake, having come into use long before the invention of refrigerators.

Warmed Sake

Warmed sake (or kanzake) refers to any sake served over 30°C. You may also hear the term "atsukan" for hot sake, served at 50°C or above. These are the common distinctions:

Hinata-kan (30°C)

"hinata" refers to a sunny spot, meaning it is pleasingly warm.

Hitohada-kan (35°C)

This serving temperature translates approximately as "body temperature".

Nuru-kan (40°C)

"nuru" derives from "nurui", which means lukewarm, and is broadly applied to any sake that is not overly hot.

Jo-kan (45°C)

This translates as "upper" meaning the upper level of heat.

Tobikiri-kan (55°C)

Likewise, tobikiri means "extremely" or "exceptionally," since this is where the sake gets really hot.

Which temperature should you choose?

As we stated at the top of the article, the temperature at which you drink your sake is largely down to personal preference. That being said, some variations certainly benefit from being served at a higher or lower temperature. While we encourage you to experiment with types and temperatures of sake, these are some simple pointers to get you started.

Brewer’s choice

Most brewers will recommend a particular temperature range for the ideal drinking experience of their particular brand of sake. Often, this will be printed on the label of the bottle or elsewhere on the packaging. If not, you can normally find this advice on their corporate website. While this is certainly a good starting point, even the brewer doesn’t get to dictate to your taste buds, and you may wish to ignore their suggestions.

Fragrant sake

Lighter, floral, and fragrant sakes, like ginjo and daiginjo grades, are popularly served chilled. As the cold sake warms up in your mouth, those wonderful aromas are released right into your olfactory system. Happo shu, or sparkling sake, is another drink that is best served chilled.


Namazake is an unpasteurised sake with a dry, crisp taste to it. It is often served cold, usually around the 5°C mark, to bring out its freshness.

Rich sake

If your sake is rich and full-bodied, it’s the ideal type to experiment with heating. Since the flavour profile of junmai and honjozo sakes is more dominant, you can release the aroma better through heating than chilling, which will often dampen the robust taste of the sake.

How to warm sake

The key thing to remember when warming your sake is this: you are only warming it, not boiling it. Don’t think of pouring it straight into a pan or (even worse) a microwave. Quite aside from making it too hot to drink comfortably, overheating will remove all its flavour.

The best way to warm your sake is the same way that you would warm a baby’s bottle—using a hot water bath. Start by decanting your sake into a ceramic flask, then pop that flask into a saucepan or large bowl of freshly boiled water that reaches halfway up the side of the flask and allow it to stand. The sake will warm through quite quickly.

You can use a clean thermometer to monitor the temperature of your sake, particularly when you’re just starting out. More experienced sake drinkers soon learn how long their drink needs to stay in its water bath. After some practice, you will be able to tell that it’s reached optimal temperature by the release of aromas from the neck of the flask.

How to keep sake warm

While you can purchase sake warmer sets that will keep your sake warm for you, in most cases they are not necessary. A good-quality ceramic flask will keep the drink warm for a good while—certainly long enough for most people to finish the flask.

Here at SushiSushi, we have recently introduced a new range of premium sake including some delicious and entrancing fruit sake options Visit our online store today and experience the remarkable taste sensations you will find with these remarkable new sake varieties. Why not experiment with the different serving temperatures to find one that works best for you?


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