Don’t Drink Sake like a Douche

Written by on March 31, 2011 in Liquor - 23 Comments

This is a guest post by Lydia Johnson. Lydia likes wheat beers and malbecs and whiskey, primarily. I’ll try anything. Except hops. I hate hops. Blech.

Creative Commons Photo Credit: tokyonatural

A lot of people, especially bachelors, in Columbus seem to think that the proper way to drink sake is to shoot it. Because it comes in a shot glass, right? This observation stems from my personal experience in various first-date scenarios at sushi restaurants throughout Columbus. Who knows how many of you I haven’t dated yet think the proper way to drink sake is to dump it piping hot down your throats like a flaming Dr. Pepper.

You should know, in Japan, high grade sake is served cold. Warm sake is preferred in the winter, but heating a fine sake can harm its integrity. You’ll often see less expensive, lower quality sake served warm because the heat masks the impurities and less-than-stellar flavors they may behold. But there’s also a chance that your sake may be heated at a temperature that is too high, which is not good for that little piece of skin just above your two front teeth on the roof of your mouth. Just sayin’.

Regardless of temperature, don’t shoot your sake. Sake is a fermented rice drink. It’s not a beer, wine or liquor. The alcohol content is higher than beer or wine, typically 15-17%. Just sip it, kind of how you would enjoy wine or tea.

For some added authenticity, when you’re not imbibing solo, don’t let your friends pour their own sake. It’s the custom in Japan to pour for one another. And if someone tries to pour for you, politely lift your glass to meet the flask that they are (hopefully) holding with two hands.

If you remember these three things: 1) Don’t request a fine sake to be warmed 2) Don’t take it like a Washington Apple on spring break and 3) Do pour for your friends, you’ll avoid looking like a typical Midwestern-who-only-orders-California-rolls diner when you sit down to a nice sushi dinner.

You’re welcome.

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23 Comments on "Don’t Drink Sake like a Douche"

  1. Bobby Roberts April 4, 2011 at 10:11 AM · Reply

    Lydia, I love this…I enjoy sake, but I agree, too many people serve it too warm.

    • Matt February 22, 2019 at 2:59 PM · Reply

      I likey the sake

  2. Luke May 19, 2011 at 1:06 PM · Reply

    I kind of like it warm, but like you said, mostly in winter. The best sakes I’ve had were served cold, and I would never shoot any sake, warm or cold. You’d miss the whole experience that way! This post conjures images of affliction-shirted dudes slamming sake.

  3. Kathryn keller April 16, 2016 at 12:58 PM · Reply

    Thank you loved this.

  4. MrEcstatic September 28, 2016 at 1:38 AM · Reply

    Thanks for the tip. Nobody ever told me about this but ever since I first tried sake, I’ve been sipping it instead of shooting it and I enjoy the taste very much.

  5. Jessica Schmidt November 18, 2016 at 12:27 AM · Reply

    I just moved to Japan, and luckily haven’t had sake in public yet. Thanks for saving me from making these mistakes! A japanese friend of mine actually just gave me some sake he got from Tokyo, so I’ll keep this in mind when I feel like drinking it.

  6. Laua Meza Mendoza May 8, 2017 at 12:10 AM · Reply

    Yesterday I tried a Sake Shooter where they take the bottle and dump down your throat. They have a countdown. I ended up messing up my shot. I spit it out. It tasted weird and I did not like it. This was my first time eating at a Japanese Sushi restaurant. I was so embarrassed.

  7. Laua Meza Mendoza May 8, 2017 at 12:11 AM · Reply

    Yesterday I tried a Sake Shooter where they take the bottle and dump down your throat. They have a countdown. I ended up messing up my shot. I spit it out. It tasted weird and I did not like it. This was my first time eating at a Japanese Sushi restaurant. I was so embarrassed. Is there a to shoot the Sake without having to spit it out. Help!!

    • Eve May 16, 2017 at 5:40 PM · Reply

      Dear Ms. Mendoza,

      Looking for a way to drink sake and not spit it out? Might help to buy a bottle and take it home. My local grocery store sells Gekkeikan brand. Probably not the finest of the fine, but not terrible. Then try it out in private to get comfortable with it’s taste and scent. Sip it slowly. I didn’t like it -at all- at first. Years later tried it again and liked it. I love it warm in winter! Remember, it’s okay if you don’t care for it now or ever!

  8. Epsilon August 21, 2017 at 4:39 PM · Reply

    “is not wine or beer or liquor”

    Sake is literally rice wine made in a manner similar to beer so yeah no

    Also who are you,or anyone else,to tell others how to drink?It’s one thing to explain how it’s traditionally drank and why it’s drank in certain ways based on when it’s consumed and the quality,but calling someone a douche because they prefer to take it as a shot?That’s a much more douchey thing to do.How a person enjoys anything should be up to them.Unless a person is hogging something or being rude,let them enjoy what they like HOW they like it.

    • AHN September 7, 2017 at 7:27 AM · Reply

      Thank you. I agree with your comment. I sip sake and drink it slowly, but don’t go around calling people a douche for drinking something the way they enjoy. Do explain the tradition, but don’t resort to name calling.

      • Eleanor March 18, 2018 at 12:33 AM · Reply


    • Russ March 1, 2019 at 1:58 PM · Reply

      Lighten up! She is providing a service so that some people won’t make asses of themselves.

    • Fed up. October 13, 2020 at 4:00 PM · Reply

      Wine is a fermented beverage made from any fruit, while beer is a fermented beverage made from any grain….but that’s the wearer classification.

      The author of this post was far more correct than you, even using the western definition.

      There *could not be* such a thing as a rice wine.
      That’s oxymoronic.

      You have a very very American attitude. I’ll bet you don’t like being corrected or told what to do by anyone at any time.

  9. Britten September 1, 2018 at 4:00 PM · Reply

    Thank you. This helpped so much.

  10. Mamalaine January 3, 2019 at 6:26 PM · Reply

    I much prefer my Sake heated, but then I may not have had any high quality sake. I do sip it as I do liken it to a wine. As you said there are traditions and rituals and rules to drinking both sake and tea the ritual is as important as the drink itself.

  11. Reid January 13, 2019 at 6:11 PM · Reply

    Or how bout people drink what they want how they want and you stop being the douche? If you want to inform people on the traditional way sake is served and consumed, that’s perfectly fine. Telling people how they SHOULD drink it just makes you a pompous, idiotic ass.

    • Darla March 2, 2019 at 3:36 PM · Reply

      Seems like people are being a little too sensitive and butt hurt to being called a douche. They must get called it often.

  12. None of your business May 18, 2019 at 4:42 PM · Reply

    You’re a douche if you let someone tell you “how” to drink sake. Sake is sake no matter how it enters you.

  13. Mavy October 10, 2019 at 10:26 PM · Reply

    While in Japan, I found that that serving temperature didn’t make much difference to the taste of Sake. But i do prefer it cold

  14. Mugen toai January 12, 2020 at 12:15 AM · Reply

    As mamaline said the ritual and traditions are just as important as the drink itself. Peraonaly ive always had sake at room temp because i wamt to zee its true nature but yea ive taken it aa a shot in the privacy of my own home or with my freinds but never would i do so in public its more a way of respecting its history. And the people who got offended all i can say to you guys i dont like simply and respectfuly.

  15. A douche May 12, 2020 at 9:27 PM · Reply

    I shoot hot sake every time your the stupid douche writing an article telling people what to do. How do you know Japanese aren’t making fun of you by telling you to sip it like a pussy .. you shut the hell up and people will do whatever the hell they want

  16. Kimberly Kearse July 20, 2020 at 11:24 PM · Reply

    How much is a shot of sake normally? I’ve wanted to try some.

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