Sake Glossary

Any Sake terms you need to know? use this glossary to learn them all.


Acidity: General scale of acidic content in sake.

Alcohol Percentage: Percentage of
Alcohol content in a sake by volume. usually around 15% – 16%.

Amakuchi: Word to describe sweet flavor in Sake

Aspergillus Oryzae: Scientific name for Koji mold.

Daiginjo – Classifcation name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 50% of it’s original size and made with Rice, water, yeast, Koji and the addition of distilled brewers alcohol.

Futsu-shu: NON-premium sake… could also be called “table sake”.

Genshu: Undiluted Sake. Hot off the presses, sake is normally about 20% Alcohol. Brewmasters usually add pure water to dilute the strength down to 15-16%. Genshu skips this step and give you full-on high octane sake. It’s strong! Also referred to as “cask strength” sake, it’s sometimes served on the rocks.

Ginjo – Classifcation name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 60% of it’s original size and made with Rice, water, yeast, Koji and the addition of distilled brewers alcohol.

Hiire: Also written Hiire. The process of heating sake to make is more shelf stable. Pasteurization.

Honjozo – Classifcation name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 70% of it’s original size and made with Rice, water, yeast, Koji and the addition of distilled brewers alcohol.

Jizake: this could be considered “micro brew” sakes. Basically, sake from a small producer.

Junmai – Classification name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 70% of it’s original size and made with only Rice, water, yeast and Koji – no additives.

Junmai Daigino – Classification name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 50% of it’s original size and made with only Rice, water, yeast and Koji – no additives.

Junmai Ginjo – Classification name for sake made from rice milled down to at least 60% of it’s original size and made with only Rice, water, yeast and Koji – no additives.

Kanpai: Japanese word for “Cheers!”

Karakuchi: a word to describe sake that is dry in flavor.

Kasu: the pressed rice solids or “lees” left over when sake is separated from the main mash after brewing.

Kobo: Japanese word for Yeast

Koji: Rice that has been inoculated with Koji-kin mold

Koji-kin: Aspergillus Oryzae. This is the name for the mold that is used to create koji rice

Koshu: Aged sake. Normally, sake should not sit around for years, but some premium sake is aged and produces a sake known as Koshu. This produces a golden-amber color and a complex flavor profile. It’s really similar to sherry. Personally, I love this stuff.

Kura: “Sake Brewery”

Kurabito: Worker at the Sake Brewery

Kuramoto: Head of the Sake Brewery, AKA the big cheese.

Masu: Square box used as a sake cup. Traditionally made from Cedar, but also now found in plastic. This square shape was originally used as a measure of rice.

Moromi: Main fermenting mash consisting of yeast starter, koji, steamed rice and water

Moto: Yeast Starter

Nigori: Sake that is only corsely filtered of rice solids after brewing. These tiny bits of the rice are left in giving this sake a creamy and miky appearance. Be sure to shake up a nigori before you pour. Sometimes called “cloudy” or “unfiltered” sake.

Nihon-shu – The way we refer to Japanese rice wine: “Sake” is referred to as “Nihon-shu” in japanese.

Nihonshu-do: a scale of measurement of the “specific gravity” of sake. higher positive numbers indicate generally drier sake, lower negative numbers represent generally sweeter sake.

Namazake: Nama is a word you should know! Trust me. Nama is just unpasteurized sake. It must be constantly refridgerated, consumed within a day or two of opening and is only available seasonally. The trade off for all this is that nama is known for it’s fresh, young, bombastic taste. Delicious!

ochoko: Small ceramic sake cup.

Prefecture: The country of japan is broken down into 47 locally governed units called Prefectures.

Sake Meter Value (SMV). A scale that indicates the relative sweetness or dryness of a sake. Postive number are Dryer, negative numbers are sweeter. Also referred to as “nihonshu-do”.

Seimaibuai : also known as Rice Milling Percentage. Indicates the precent of the rice grain remaining after milling away the outer hull prior to brewing

Shubo : Yeast Starter

Shuzo : Sake brewery. for example: Takara Shuzo means Takara Sake Brewery.

Taru: Sake that has been stored in cedar barrels, imparting a cedar-y taste to the sake. If you love to spend time in your cedar closet, this may just be the drink for you. The more subtle the cedar notes, the better.

Toji: Head brewer at the sake brewery

Tokkuri: Small carafe for serving and heating sake. Traditionally made from ceramic.


Yukiwatari NigoriI got taken out for my birthday last night by Scott and we went to EN, a wonderful Japanese restaurant down on Hudson at Leroy street. The evening started off right with my friend Scott B. arranging to have a bottle of Yukiwatari Nigori sent to the table. Now, Nigori was not traditionally my favorite, but this Nigori really turned my head. Produced by Asabiraki Brewery, this is everything a Nigori should be. It’s creamy and full and totally unique without having that fermenty-ricey flavor I’ve tasted in Nigori before. The food was a dream as well, but I just needed a little something more this being my birthday and all, so I ordered a DaiGinjo off the menu called “Koshi Hikari” only to later learn this is really known as Kirin. Yes, just like the beer. So, they can’t compete with the brand recognition of Kirin beer, so they re-invent themselves as Koshi Hikari, which is really the name of some kind of rice, I think. Hey, it’s cool to have a secret identity – kinda the Bruce Wayne of Sake. Well, it was crisp, granny-smithy and delightful. subtle and elegant. everything a daigino should be.

Kirin DaiGinjoPresented in a stemless sake glass which I think was Riedel. It was a great cap off for a great birthday. Thanks Scott B for the Nigori. Thank you Scott H. for the wonderful dinner and everything else.

Man’s Mountain. HOOWA!

Man's MountainOk, I have to admit, the english name of Otokoyama’s Tokubetsu junmai reeled me in. MAN’s MOUNTAIN! I just had to give it a try. This could be the very same Otokoyama I had at Menchanko-tei. So, having scaled the heights of man’s mountain and returned with an empty bottle, I can safely say this Junmai is solid. the stats are SMV +10; Acidity 1.6; ALC 15.5%. You can really taste that this is a strong, very DRY Junmai with a hint of fruity-something melon-something. It stands up for itself. I think if the Man Show picked a sake, this would be it. I enjoyed it. It is a good sake to have around for those informal times when something good and strong fits the bill. I’m thinkin’ pizza or chinese take out. I will climb this Mountain again!

Ice Ice Baby!

Ice Dome SakeI tried an interesting “Igloo” sake that I had heard about called Taisetsu from Takasago Brewery on Hokkaido Island. you can learn more about this brewery here. It’s a Junmai Ginjo with an ALC content of 16%, Nihonshu-Do of +3 and made with Ginpu sake Rice that I picked up at Landmark. This sake is slow aged in japanese ice dome igloo. I thought this sake was very fragrant and tasted smooth with a hint of carmel. The Sake is presented in a frosty ice blue bottle with a picture of the ice dome on the label. Certainly an interesting brewing method and worth exploring further!

International Habitual Drink

Otokoyama served up all purdyI am coming to love japanese websites translated into english! I am starting a japanese class in march, so I’m sure it won’t be so funny when I need to translate Japanese into english myself. Be that as it may, when I was researching this sake called Otokoyama that I sampled last night, their website referred to sake as an “International Habitual Drink” he he. You can say that again! I may rename my blog I think it will catch on.

However sketchy their webmaster’s translation skills, Otokayama came as a startling suprise. This was was one of my signature Sake “stab in the dark” selections off a Sake menu — luckily this time I was rewarded. My Friend Scott B and I went to this cute noodle house on W. 55th called Menchanko-tei. The serving of Otokoyama in question was about 6 oz for $8.50. The presentation was great – a very handsome red laquer bowl with a spout and a small blue sake cup. Presentation, I’m coming to understand, is one of the factors that makes drinking sake such a pleasure when out on the town.

Otokoyama hand model
The Sake menu at Menchanko-tei was a little sparse on the details… I think this is the Otokoyama Junmai Export sake you see on their website here. In any case, it was a smooth and very drinkable sake, quite a treat and very good with the japanese dishes we had such as shumai and ramen. For me, the price was right and the sake a real standout, if it is indeed a junmai. I’ll have to go back – I didn’t think to ask. next time, next time.

Sake FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Below you can review a list of the questions I get asked most frequently. If you don’t find your questions addressed here, please feel free to contact me.

1) Should sake be served hot or chilled?
Sake can be served both gently warmed or chilled. It really depends on the type. If you have an elegant Daiginjo, warming may erase any subtle aromas and complexities. However, a hearty junmai may open up with warming.

2) Once I open a bottle of sake, how long will it last?
You should consume sake as quickly as possible after opening. If it is kept sealed and in the refrigerator, it will not spoil and can be consumed for several weeks, however, the flavors will soften considerably.

3) Is sake meant to be aged like wine?
No, almost all sake is meant to be consumed young and fresh. Only a certain type of sake called Koshu is aged.

4) Is sake a distilled beverage like vodka?
No, sake is a brewed beverage. Alcohol percentages range between 14%-20%.

5) How should I store my sake?
I recommend that sake be stored in the refrigerator. This keeps sake out of the light and away from heat. Any unpasteurized sake must be kept refrigerated at all times

6) Is sake only made in Japan?
No, sake is made in several countries such as Austrailia and the United States. However, the best premium sake still comes only from Japan.

Sake Classifications

This is another video in the “Sake 101” series which explains the 6 major classifications of sake. These different categories can effect both price and taste of your sake, so it’s worth learning about. I hope you find this useful and informative. Once you know these basics, you’ll be honjozo-ing with the best of ‘em.

Sake Bar Satsko

Friendly Sake FolksAnother fun Sake meetup! this time at Sake Bar Satsko for a Sake Bar Brunch. Satsko herself was very warm and friendly and I think everyone felt very welcomed. The food was really good – you could get your entree made with either Japanese style sides or american style sides. I was too afraid of what american sides might be (doughnuts? super sized fries? butter flavor crisco?) so of course, I went with Japanese – and I’m glad I did. The warmup to brunch was simply tofu with a great miso ginger dressing. Brunch came with the option of a sake cocktail, but I asked for sake straight up and Satsko was happy to oblige.

Ceramic MasuThe sake was a junmai, quite drinkable with brunch and served in a really cool ceramic masu. Scott gave me the rest of his so I got 1.5 masu! I was tempted to order more sake, but decided to simply enjoy in moderation and it was really nice. All the other Sake meetup folks are really great people. everyone was very nice and very friendly. I think Sake as the ability to bring that out in everyone. sake magic.

I took a peek at the regular sake list and it’s pretty extensive. This place is worth another trip for sure! When brunch was winding down satsko was chatting with us and inviting us back to sample the sake tastings on Tues. nights. I’ll be there!

Sake List goes on and on...I’m also looking forward to the next sake meetup event. Hope to someday taste the sake Jeff made in his kitchen. I bet it’s gonna be a Nigori. oh boy, scott’s favorite.