07: Sake Manners

Writer: Tamaki Kashiwagi

This time I am writing about manners you should use when you drink sake. Of course you don’t have to care about manners when you go to casual bars or are at home. Just drink happily!! However, when you go to a fancy Japanese restaurant or hang out with an important guest, it might be better if you know the manners related to sake. In any case, they are not so difficult. Just remember the following four things:

1. Don’t serve yourself sake

It’s Japanese culture that we pour sake for each other to share a good time. You don’t pour sake into your own glass. Also, when you notice that other people’s glass is empty, please pour some sake for them.

2. When someone pours sake for you, you raise the sake cup with your hand

In the case of wine, it’s bad manners to hold a wine glass when a sommelier or host serves you. You have to keep it placed on the table. However, the height of a sake glass or sake cup (its size is almost the same as a cappuccino cup) is low, so it’s a little bit hard to pour sake into it. You will seem to be a very considerate person when you raise your glass or cup for the person who serves you sake. Women seem more elegant if they raise their glasses or cups with both hands. When the person who pours sake is your elder or in a higher position, you should raise your glass or cup with both hands even if you are a man.

3. When you pour sake for other people, you should hold the bottle with both hands

Wine sommeliers hold a bottle in one hand in order to show the label of the bottle to guests. However, you are not a professional at serving sake. You should hold it with both hands in order to not let the bottle fall and break important dishes or glasses.


4. Pour sake until about 80 percent of the glass or cup is full

In the case of wine, we pour it until about one-third of the glass is full. Beer is poured until the glass is completely full. Since beer foam becomes like a lid, we can drink it without spilling it. However, sake doesn’t have foam to act as a lid, so sake should be poured until 80 percent of glass or cup is full. It’s easier to drink it without spilling anything.

In some casual sake bars in Japan, you will be served a glass which is completely full of sake with a saucer. It’s a little bit hard to drink and is also bad manners. However, sake lovers prefer to drink in this style. Because they can drink Sake 20% more, they get 100% instead of 80%!!

In addition, we don’t have a strict rule that women should not serve drinks such as the rules regarding wine. However, I don’t think women should always follow Japanese rules when they drink sake. There are high societies or first class restaurants where women never serve drinks outside of Japan. You should be flexible and follow the rules or atmosphere of the society or the restaurant.
Oh, I forgot to tell you most important manner. Don’t drink too much!