Sake Etiquette Tips

by Rachelle Von Anders on August 6, 2010

in Table Manners

table sake etiquette

Is it ever ok for you to pour your own sake?  Do you use both hands when pouring sake?  Find out the answers to all your sake etiquette questions in our article here!

Sake etiquette is essential if you do not want to risk offending someone!  There are not many rules of sake etiquette, which is why it is even more important that you know and follow them!

We will start with the basics: what exactly is sake?  It is an alcoholic drink made from rice.  As sushi is also made with rice, it is believed that sushi and sake do not complement each other and, therefore, you should not drink sake when you are eating sushi.  The same sake etiquette applies to any rice based meal.  Be adventurous and try one of the many great Japanese beers instead (I love Asahi)!

Sake is served in a large, vase looking object called a tokkuri.  You drink the sake out of small cups called ochoko.  Here is where sake etiquette gets tricky: you can’t pour sake for yourself; someone else needs to pour it for you, as a social bonding experience (and as those cups are so small, there are plenty of chances to bond!).  The person who is receiving the sake should hold their sake cup off the table.  In more formal situations, two hands should be used; your right hand to hold the cup and the left hand underneath the cup to support it.  The same goes for the sake pouring; one hand for informal occasions and two hands for formal occasions.  If the event is super casual, sake etiquette relaxes a bit: after the first round of pouring, you are able to pour for yourself (called tejaku).

Traditional sake etiquette means when you see someone’s cup is empty, you refill it for them.  If you’re the designated driver, be aware of this – that stuff creeps up on you!

Photo: 123rf/Anneke Schram

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