Sake is a Japanese-born alcoholic specialty that has garnered a beloved following worldwide. While many people refer to sake as a rice wine, it is not a wine at all. It’s in a category of its own.
Sake is made using rice, rice mold, water, and yeast. Sake undergoes a fermentation process like wine or beer, but it has a much higher alcohol content.
It’s the happy medium between a spirit and a glass of wine. Sake comes in many forms and has been a part of Japanese culinary traditions for thousands of years.
Sake, like any other spirit, wine, or beer, is an acquired taste that may not be to everyone’s liking. The best way to mask the unpleasant flavor of any alcoholic beverage is to combine it with mixers or water it down in a cocktail.
Best Sake Cocktails
I have compiled a list of the best sake cocktails to try that will neutralize sake’s flavor while simultaneously accentuating it.
If you think about the contents of a classic gin or vodka martini, then sake’s sweet wine-like properties act as the perfect substitute for vermouth.
The Saketini, therefore, consists of 2.5 ounces of gin or vodka with a splash of half an ounce of Sake.
Because a martini is made with pure alcohol, the quality of each spirit is tantamount to the taste of the final product.
I like to garnish the saketini with a cucumber slice and pickled ginger.
Lychee & Sake Martini
Lychees are delightfully sweet, bite-sized fruits wrapped in brightly colored hard peels.
A native fruit of China, Lychees have since become synonymous with the tropics and are a mainstay snack, juice, and fruit water flavor in many tropical countries.
The Lychee and Sake Martini blends the sweet citrusy flavor of lychee with gin and sake to create a sweet martini.
The Lychee and Sake Martini blends a half-ounce of lychee liqueur with 1.5 ounces of both gin and sake.
I compare the taste to a pear martini. The strong floral flavor of the gin and the funk of the sake offset the sweetness of the liqueur so that every alcoholic flavor is represented in equal and complementary measures.
While the martini recipes I mentioned above use sake as an additive to vodka or gin, the Sake Mojito features sake as the main event.
Mojitos usually use rum as an alcoholic ingredient, but the Sake Mojito switches rum for sake.
Sake has less alcohol by volume than rum, so you’ll want to double your proportion of sake.
The Sake Mojito grinds fresh mint leaves with sugar and lime slices to an aromatic pulp before adding sake and shaking the mixture thoroughly.
You then filter the liquid into a glass of ice and top it off with club soda.
I love the refreshing nature of this drink. It adds sweetness and a cool herby taste to sake.
Japan is known for its incredible Cherry Blossom trees whose spectacular pink, crimson, and white blooms signal the arrival of spring. The Sakura Smash is an ode to the Cherry Blossom.
It consists of plum-flavored sake, fresh cherries, mint leaves, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and club soda.
This spectacularly sweet and fresh cocktail is the perfect project to challenge your amateur mixologist skills.
The lemon juice complements and brightens the sweetness of the pomegranate and cherries. My favorite part about it is the fresh cherry bits.
I also like flavored sake. Plum is one of the most popular alcohol flavors in Japan. They even make wine out of it!
The Plum Sour is a cocktail inspired by Japanese spirits and flavors.
Plum is a common spirit and liqueur flavor in Japan, and a traditional plum sour uses Japanese Whisky as the base spirit.
Instead of mixing whisky with plum liqueur, you can use plum-flavored sake instead. The Plum Sour will then contain whisky or gin, plum sake, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a whipped egg white.
I always look for opportunities to order a sour cocktail because I enjoy the frothy, foamy egg white topper that adds depth of texture.
Plus, when I make a Plum Sour, the whipped egg is even more fun to execute and dollop onto each cocktail. I certainly impress my guests.
Pears are a fall and winter treat that offers a delicate sweetness and a soft, almost creamy texture.
They are as delightful in a drink as they are as a whole fruit.
The Japanese Pear drink contains three different spirits, yet still manages to taste as delicate and smooth as a fresh pear.
It contains sake, vodka, pear brandy, simple syrup, and Peychaud’s bitters. You mix all ingredients cold in a shaker, pour them into a martini glass, and garnish with a thin slice of pear.
The best part about pear brandy is that it’s available year-round, so the Japanese Pear isn’t just a fall beverage.
Yet another martini variation, the Cucumber Sake-Tini is the most refreshing variety.
If you’ve ever been to a fancy hotel or salon, you’ve probably tasted cucumber-infused water. The cucumber martini is an elegant and refreshing drink that puts an alcoholic spin on cucumber water.
Again, you’ll want to use the highest quality spirits as martinis are pure alcohol. The Cucumber Sake-tini is just vodka, sake, and cucumber.
Four thick cucumber slices go to the bottom of the shaker, followed by the vodka and sake. You muddle the cucumber to release its flavor, infusing it into the alcohol.
I like to add soda water to make it even more refreshing and less alcoholic.
Meaning “egg sake” in Japanese, Tamagozake is one of the only sake cocktails that originated in Japan.
One of my favorite aspects of Japanese cuisine is that they love cracking raw eggs over dishes, and letting the heat from the ingredients cook the egg. They use this same method with the Tamagozake.
Tamagozake consists of sake, a raw egg, and honey. This is a hot sake drink where you heat the sake before whisking in a raw egg and honey.
The heat of the sake will cook the egg slightly. To me, this is the Japanese version of egg nog. There’s a non-alcoholic version that substitutes sake with milk.
The Geisha is a traditional Japanese female performance artist made famous for their beautiful kimonos, jet black buns, and powder-white makeup.
Perhaps the coconut’s creamy white flesh and dark shell imitate the Geisha’s creamy white faces surrounded by their shock of black hair.
The Coco Geisha is a decadent and rich cocktail containing sake, Japanese single malt whisky, coconut water, simple syrup, and Angostura Orange Bitters.
I love how the coconut water smooths out the strong smokiness of the whisky and the orange flavor of the bitters.
Plus, coconut water is known for its restorative hydration properties, so you get an alcoholic beverage with a hangover cure built in.
Best Sake Cocktails
- Lychee & Sake Martini
- Sake Mojito
- Sakura Smash
- Plum Sour
- Japanese Pear
- Cucumber Sake-Tini
- Coco Geisha
Sake is a unique spirit that shares properties with many alcoholic drinks but has an unmistakable flavor. It isn’t as alcoholic as hard liquor and yet it’s around three times more alcoholic than beer or wine. Therefore, you can drink it on its own, but it’s also a perfect addition to a cocktail.
My list of the best sake cocktails shows sake’s versatility as it combines well with everything from tropical fruit juices to other pungent liquors.
Check out our favorite sake brands to make these cocktails at home!
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