Sake is a type of alcohol that changes in taste depending on the type of sake cup used to drink it in. Similar to a wine glass for wine or a beer jug for beer, sake also has a cup specially used to drink it in. There are many different kinds of cups, and it also varies in taste depending on the type of cup used. Today, let us look into some of the cups we recommend you enjoy with your delicious sake.
Ⅰ Types of Sake Cups
1. Ochoko (Small Cup)Oenophilia Osaka Sake Set
An ochoko is a very small cup that can contain enough sake for a single sip. Since ochoko cups are designed to be very small, the sake often spills out of the cup when poured from the bottle. To avoid this, “Tokuri” which is a sake bottle that is used to store the sake from the bottle sold at the store, is used in a similar way a pitcher is used, making it easier to pour and drink sake while at the table. Approximately 1 go (around 180 ml) to 2 go (around 360 ml) is poured in the tokuri, and every time the ochoko cup goes empty, sake is poured from the Tokuri bottle. Since the Ochoko cup is very small, it is less likely that the sake’s taste changes due to the cup, and as long as it is the same size, you can enjoy a consistent taste.
You may use Tokuri to pour room temperature sake and enjoy “Hiyazake”, or even pour in “Reishu” which is cold chilled sake. You may also heat up the Tokuri in a water-bath and enjoy “Atsukan” or “Nurukan”.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways you can enjoy drinking sake with these sake cups and bottles.
2. Guinomi (Large Cups)
Guinomi is much deeper in depth, and it has a bigger size compared to an Ochoko. There aren’t strict rules in size, but it is typically bigger than a small ochoko cup and smaller than a Japanese tea cup. The size is comparatively on the bigger side, so rather than filling in a Tokuri to use as a pitcher, sake is often poured straight from the bottle. This is why it is often enjoyed when drinking “Reishu” or “HIyazake (normal temperature sake)”.
Sakazuki has a similar shape to a lacquer ware dish, and it is often used in events and religious rituals such as new year’s and wedding ceremonies. However, it doesn’t mean it cannot be used on a daily basis.
When using a Sakazuki, a Choushi which looks like a small kettle is used as a pitcher. The sake is then poured from the Choushi into the Sakazuki. The same with a Tokuri, you may enjoy drinking “Reishu” and “Atsukan” with these. It is also easier to carry around if you will be drinking atsukan as it has a handle.
JapanBargain Masu Wooden Sake Cup, Large
Masu is a square wooden box container used to drink sake. The container can be used as a cup when drinking sake, but another cup can be put inside the masu, and sake can be drunk from there. What may be a little different from the others is that sake is filled in the cup to the rim of the inner cup, even to the point where the sake pours out to the masu. This is called the “Mokkiri” style of drinking.
If sake is directly drunk from the Masu, you may drink it from the corner of this square container to avoid from overflowing. In this case, the scent of Hinoki cypress used in the Masu and the aroma of the sake mix together resulting to a very pleasing aroma while enjoying your sake. However, cleaning up a Masu is very hard, so it may not be something you can casually enjoy drinking with at home.
Another way of using Masu to drink sake is called “Mossari”. The first thing you do in this method of drinking is you drink sake off of the cup, then you pour the sake inside the Masu to the cup. Once the cup fills up and soaks in sake, take a towel to wipe off the sake and clean it. This way of drinking is usually used in “Reishu” or “Hiyazake”.
5. Champagne Glass
Drinking sake with a champagne glass is not a common practice in Japan, but with the recent introduction of sparkling sake, these can be enjoyed with champagne glasses. The soda content in champagne and sparkling sake are quite similar. Why don’t you try drinking sparkling sake when you want to change up your usual glass of champagne.
Of course sake is versatile enough to be enjoyed with your standard drinking cups. Even in Japan, frequent drinkers of sake would take a normal cup and fill it up rather than using an Ochoko or a Guinomi.
What is special about this way of drinking is rather how easy and casual sake can be drunk. It will take away the hassle of preparing a special type of cup, allowing you to enjoy your drink right away. However, this does take away the special sense of enjoying sake. It would be the same case as drinking wine or brandy with a normal cup. If you have enough time to prepare it, we recommend using proper cups and glasses for each drink to add up to the experience.
Ⅱ How to Use Your Sake Cups
1. Tokuri + Ochoko
When sake is drunk with an Ochoko, Tokuri is used as a pitcher for the sake, and sake is poured from the Tokuri to the Ochoko. Sake with different temperatures such as Reishu and Atsukan can be enjoyed with this set.
2. Katakuchi + Guinomi
When sake is drunk with a Guinomi, it can be drunk directly from the Guinomi, but you can also use a Katakuchi as a pitcher, then pour it into the Guinomi. Compared to a Tokuri, Katakuchi has a bigger opening, so you can enjoy the scent of the sake more.
3. Choshi + Sakazuki
When drinking sake in a Sakazuki cup, the sake is stored in a Choshi which is used as a pitcher, pouring the sake into the Sakazuki. It’s a set that is used casually, and also in formal events such as in religious ceremonies.
4. Tosoki Set
When enjoying sake during the new year’s, the Tosoki set is the way to go. A Tosoki set usually includes a Sakazuki and Choshi set, and at times includes a Byobu or a folding screen and an Obon or a tray. It is the perfect sake set for the new year’s or special occasions.
5. Reishu Set
Sake vessels sold as reishu sets are commonly Ochoki and Tokuri sets, but materials used are usually glass that have a more cool and refreshing design rather than more traditional pottery material. Less cold or hotter sake such as Nurukan and Atsukan do not use glass materials, but it is the perfect material to match with cooler sake like Reishu.
Sake has typically four methods of production; Kunshu, Jukushu, Soushu, and Junshu. These have all different types of vessel or cups that are recommended to be used with. In the case of “Kunshu” that has a lighter taste but intense scent is best enjoyed with trumpet shaped vessels. On the other hand, “Jukushu” that has a stronger taste and scent is best drunk with cups with heavier material, and “Soushu” sake with a lighter scent and taste go well with smaller cups. Lastly, “Junshu” with a lighter scent and a stronger taste goes well with Japanese style vessels.
Cooled sake “Reishu”, room temperature “Hiyazake”, slightly warmed “Nurukan”, and heated “Atsukan” are all similar types of drinks but have a variety of ways that can be enjoyed depending on its temperature. By choosing the cups you use to enjoy them with depending on their temperature and type, sake can be a tasteful and highly enjoyable drink. Even the same Reishu can be slowly enjoyed with a smaller Ochoko cup, and using a Masu Japanese Hinoki-made cup can have a different kind of taste. As you can see, flavors also change depending on the cup used, so please try different kinds of vessels and cups, and try to pick out the best one for you that best suit your taste.