Sake Cups

There are 2 things you should keep in mind when selecting a Sake set:

1. Capacity

Sake flavors and aromas alter as its temperature changes. Sake is best served in a small cup so that you can empty it before the temperature of Sake changes.

2. The width of the cup mouth

The wider the mouth of the cup is, the more easily you can sniff out the Sake aroma. This is because oxidization of Sake and volatilization of aromatic elements speed up.

* Shapes of Sake Cups

Some believe shapes of Sake cups affect the taste of Sake (e.g. trumpet, bud, straight and bowl shapes). However, their effect on Sake taste has not been scientifically proved and remains controversial (neither is a wine glass).

One common belief is that the shape of the Sake cup directs the Sake itself into the best area of the mouth. This is based on false ideas about the nature of taste buds on the tongue, such as the thoroughly discredited tongue map.

As for the aroma, if you want to sniff out the aroma (especially for aromatic Ginjo type), just stick to a bowl-shaped Sake cup. Just like wine, you can swirl and detect aromas the best in this way.

Having said that, let’s look at the list of  5 Sake cups!

1. Ochoko


Ochoko is a small Sake cup. It’s a small cylindrical cup (about 3-6cm in diameter) that you might have probably seen if you’ve been to Japanese restaurants in your countries. You can enjoy the variety of sake cup designs, colors and shapes, indulging yourself in the Japanese traditional world. This sake cup usually broadens at neck to allow the sake aromas to waft upward.  Ochoko and Guinomi are the most widely used sake vessels.

2. Guinomi


Guinomi is a Sake cup, slightly larger than Ochoko. Apart from size, Guinomi follows the same characteristics as Ochoko. Guinomi made from pottery with rough texture is the best for hot Sake.

3. Sakazuki


A wide-mouthed, flat Sake vessel that is regarded as an old-style. It continues to be the ceremonial favourite, often used in Shinto-related ceremonies. This cup is most formally lifted to the mouth with two hands: one to hold the bottom of the cup and the other to hold it on the side.

Available in a number of sizes from the most minute to a large showpiece, the sakazuki most typically holds only a few sips. Sakazuki are often beautifully decorated and usually made from porcelain, earthenware or lacquer but some are available also in gold, silver and glass.

4. Masu


This wooden square box was originally designed centuries ago as a measuring tool for rice and Sake. Generally used in ceremonial occasions today, Masu is rarely used at home. But it doesn’t mean you can’t use it at home. If used, it would give the good ol’ traditional atmosphere to your drink scene.

5. Wine Glass


The newly-adapted drinking style that has been gaining great popularity with Sake sommeliers and professionals. It helps you sense subtle aroma, colors, and viscosity of sake which you could not fully recognize in traditional sake vessels. There’s even a Sake competition, Fine Sake Awards Japan which assesses which Sake performs the best in a wineglass.

Aromatic Ginjo type Sake is best served in a wine glass as you can sniff out its aroma.

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What is Shochu?

Shochu is a Japanese clear distilled spirit similar to vodka. The main difference between sake and shochu is sake (or “nihon-shu” in Japanese) is brewed, whereas shochu is distilled.

In Japan shochu is often mixed with hot water with salty ume-plums, or mixed with oolong tea and fruit juices such as orange, peach and grapefruit.

Health conscious consumers prefer shochu than other types of beverage alcohol because of its low calories. (about 15 – 20 cal. per ounce) By law, the alcohol content of Shochu must be 45 percent or less. Although most comes in at 25 percent, lower than a regular bottle of distilled spirits that are sold at 40 percent.

Shochu is produced all over the country, yet the home of shochu is Kyushu island, most southern island of Japan. Kagoshima prefecture in Kyushu is the only prefecture in Japan that does not produce sake or any other types of beverage alcohol than Shochu.

Like vodka, shochu can be distilled from various types of ingredients that contain natural sugar such as potato, rice, wheat and barley. After the sugar is extracted from the source ingredient, yeast is added to the sugary water, converting the sugar into alcohol before the distillation process.

There are two main types of shochus: Otsurui and Korui. Korui shochu is distilled several times and usually consumed in cocktails. Otsurui is distilled only once, leaving a distinctive smell of the source ingredient. This type of shochu is often enjoyed on the rocks and is becoming increasingly popular in Japan.

Imo-Jochu is distilled from sweet potatoes within a few days after being harvested. Unlike other types of shochu produced from grain crops, imo jochu can only be produced during the harvest season between August and November. After the distillation, imo jochu is matured for a few months before being shipped. Shinshu (new shochu) is sold in November as a tradition to celebrate the beginning of making shochu.

The exact origin of Shochu is unknown, although the first document mentioning Shochu was found in Kyushu island in the 1500s, indicating that Shochu distillation first arrived in Kyushu island through Thailand while the other would say that it came from China through Korea. By the mid 1500s, Shochu was available to ordinary citizens according to the document found in Kyoshu island, written by a local carpenter. “I was disappointed that the manager didn’t offer us a glass of shochu for all the hard work we’ve done for his shrine.”

Today shochu cocktails or “Chu-Hai” canned cocktails are sold virtually everywhere in Japan, from a street vending machine to a 24-hour convenient store, or at a subway kiosk. Chu-Hai drinks come with the variety of flavors such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, peach, strawberry, plum and many more.


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