Traditionally, sakes are served warmed but in the last 30-40 years, due to the advancement in the technology of sake making, more sakes are being served chilled. As breweries began refining the sake making process, more delicate flavours are developed and these flavours could be lost when heated.
Most premium sakes are best served chilled, with the optimum temperature for ginjo, daiginjo, junmai daiginjo and unpasteurized namasake to be around 15°C. This is the temperature at which the subtle flavours and fine fragrances of these refined sakes can be best enjoyed. They may be chilled further but excessive chilling may dull the senses of taste and smell, and the subtleties of flavour and fragrance will be lost. Namasake, because it’s unpasteurized, must be stored at below room temperature, and should never be warmed or heated.
Junmai can be warmed to about 45°C while junmaiginjo may be enjoyed at a lukewarm level of about 40°C. Honjozo, which has a limited amount of brewer’s alcohol added, and can have a lighter and smoother flavour when warmed to around 50°C to 60°C. Aged sakes can also be served slightly warmed. Be sure to take note always warm your sakes in a hot water bath and never apply heat directly to the vessel.
A good way to experience the different dimensions of taste and fragrance of sake is to drink it from chilled to warm. Some sakes can taste like a total different sake at a different temperature. Try it for yourself!