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What Is a Sake Set?

A sake set is a traditional Japanese ensemble for serving sake, the iconic rice wine. It typically includes a tokkuri, a flask with a narrow neck for pouring, and several ochoko, small cups for sipping. Each piece is crafted to enhance the ritual and enjoyment of sake drinking. Ready to explore the elegance of sake rituals further?
C. K. Lanz
C. K. Lanz

In general, a sake set includes a flask and at least two cups for serving sake. Sake is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made from rice. A typical sake set is ceramic, but more elaborate sets made from glass or lacquered plastic are also available, as are tin and bamboo. The cups vary widely from flat and saucer-like to small wooden boxes called masu. Flasks are often bulbous with a thin neck, but come in as many shapes and sizes as the cups. A sake set can be given as gift for many occasions, including weddings, birthdays, or housewarmings.

A tokkuri is the generic term for the flask in a sake set. These flasks typically have a bulbous or square base and a narrow neck, but different styles have their own specific terms. For example, a metal sake flask with a handle is usually called a choshi. The typical shape is ideal for heating sake; sake is traditionally warmed by placing the flask in a pan of hot water, and the thin neck helps keep the heat from escaping. A sake set flask is usually either ceramic, glass, or lacquered plastic and can vary in the amount of sake it holds.

At a minumum, a sake set has a flask and two cups.
At a minumum, a sake set has a flask and two cups.

A sake set will also include at least two cups that match the design of the flask. These cups can vary widely in shape and size. The flat, saucer-shaped cups are called sakazuki and are usually found at weddings and tea ceremonies, while the more common type of sake cup is the small, cylindrical ochoko. Sake stemware, a glass sake cup raised above a wide base like a wine glass, is increasingly common. Like the flasks, the cups are made with a variety of materials, with glass being reserved for serving chilled sake.

The Saketini is a martini made with Japanese sake.
The Saketini is a martini made with Japanese sake.

The most traditional sake cup is the wooden box measuring cup or masu with a volume of 6 ounces (180 milliliters). Sake was once sold by filling the wooden box that was then used as drinkware. Some contemporary sake drinkers prefer other types of cups to the masu because they believe that the wood affects the beverage’s flavor. Masu made from lacquerware or plastic is increasingly common, however, and this traditional cup is still used in some ceremonial situations.

Sake is a clear, alcoholic drink that comes in many varieties. In Japanese, this rice-based beverage is called nihonshu or "Japanese alcohol." The sake brewing process is similar to that of beer despite the fact that sake is sometimes called a rice wine. Sake has a higher alcohol content than most beers and is often diluted to approximately 15 percent with water prior to bottling. The origins of this Japanese drink are not clear, but the earliest written reference dates to the third century.

The serving temperature for sake depends on the time of year, the drinker’s preference, and the quality of the beverage. It is often heated in the winter, but high-quality sake is never consumed hot to preserve the flavors. A low-quality sake may be heated to mask its inferior taste. The material used to make the sake set usually determines whether it is used to serve warm or chilled sake. Sake can be served straight or in cocktails like tamagozake or the sake bomb.

Sake sets are available in an almost infinite number of designs. Some display simple floral blossom designs while others feature Japanese calligraphy. Some sets are solid colors, and others are earthen. Materials, size of the set, and elaborateness of the design all affect the price. A sake set is typically sold in a gift box suitable for giving at weddings, birthdays, and many other occasions. There are colors, shapes, and sizes available to suit every taste.

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Discussion Comments


In college we used to do something called a sake bomb. A shot glass of sake is balanced on top of a pint glass filled with lager beer, usually with the aid of chopsticks. The shot is then dropped into the beer and chugged.

Think of sake as a fine wine but made with rice instead of grapes. Would you mix a fine wine with anything? No you would not. It should also be noted that mixing sake is considered bad form in Japan and is looked down upon by Japanese people around the world. If you really can't stand the taste then you probably have low quality sake. Try heating it up. This is often done to mask the poor taste in some bottom shelf sake brands.

Does anything mix well with sake?

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    • At a minumum, a sake set has a flask and two cups.
      By: BRAD
      At a minumum, a sake set has a flask and two cups.
    • The Saketini is a martini made with Japanese sake.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      The Saketini is a martini made with Japanese sake.