Sake Tasting: Sipping Sake in New York City

Sake Tasting NYC

Three years ago, I visited a sake brewery in Fukuoka, Japan and wrote about my experience. At that time, I thought that I had learned a good amount about what sake was. It wasn’t until I attended a sake tasting recently at KOA Restaurant in Manhattan however, that I realized that I actually didn’t know much about it at all.

What is Sake?

Sake (pronounced ‘sah-key’)  is an alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented rice. It is commonly referred to as ‘rice wine’ due to its unique flavor, but the process of making sake is actually similar to the process of making beer.

You can learn everything you want to know about the process of making sake here.

The Sake Tasting: What I Learned

The good folks over at Gekkeikan (one of the oldest sake producers in Japan) were gracious enough to extend an invitation for me to attend the sake tasting in New York City. At the tasting, we learned about the brand and the various sake products that they offered, we had the opportunity to make sake cocktails, and we were provided with unlimited samplings of their finest sake.

I learned that:

  • Sake is comprised of rice, yeast, and water, which is similar to the ingredients used to make beer (A fun fact that I learned on my brewery tour in Prague).
  • Sake is gluten free, contains no sulfites, has no preservatives, and is all natural – making it an excellent drink if you like alcohol!
  • There are different qualities of sake depending on the amount of milling: the more the rice is milled, the higher the quality of the sake becomes.
  • Sake generally has 15-17% alcohol content – which is pretty high and can get you drunk pretty fast!
  • It has a short shelf life of about two years, unlike wine which had a very long shelf life and is better when aged. (Tip for knowing if your sake is old: when looking at it, it should be clear; if the color is yellow, then it is old.)
  • There are hundreds of kinds of sake and they can come in different flavors. During the tasting, I was asked to smell the different kinds of sake that I was provided with. I was not very good at detecting the different ingredients, and based on my experience with cheese and wine in Amsterdam, I learned that my nose is not the best at recognizing subtle scents.
  • I am still pretty horrible at making cocktails, even though I have been properly trained in mixology.


milled rice

Rice is milled in order to produce sake, the higher the level of milling, the higher quality of the product’

sake cocktails

I learned that I am not very good at making cocktails, despite my formal training

 Photographs from the Night

sake cocktail

This sake cocktail reminded me a lot of the Cosmo I had on my Sex & The City Tour

My favorite sake was the ‘Zipang’ by Gekkeikan, which had hints of tropical fruits. Out of all of the flavors that I tried (and there were many), it was the most similar tasting to a sweet white wine.

sake cocktail brochures

Have you ever had sake before? What was your experience like? Share below!

Thank you to Gekkeikan and KOA for providing this complimentary tasting and as always, all opinions are my own and this post was not written under the influence of alcohol :). 

By |2017-07-30T01:10:05+00:00November 5th, 2014|Culinary Tourism, New York City|6 Comments


  1. TravelXena Nov 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    I’ve been on traditional wine tastings, but never Saki. That’s one that I have to add to the list. Sounds like a tasty time!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Nov 7, 2014 at 7:00 am - Reply

      Yes, it was definitely a new experience for me too and a great way to learn more about the sake-making process 😀

  2. Luna Sangeun Nov 7, 2014 at 2:30 am - Reply

    Hello, Chanel.
    I followed your link on my site. Thank you for visiting.
    You have very cool and fun site 😀

    Oh~ I love Sake but have never tried as Cocktail base.
    I would like to try it once 😀

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Nov 7, 2014 at 7:01 am - Reply

      Thank you for coming by Luna! I too had never tried sake in a cocktail before! I really enjoyed the pink ones!

  3. Nadeen Nov 14, 2014 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    I will never forget the first time time I had sake in San Francisco. I think it burned a hole in my chest. Lol. It took awhile for me to try it again but realized I enjoyed the flavored and sparkling ones. Love the cocktail pics!

    • Chanel Nov 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Haha, yes some sake can be quite strong. My favorite are the flavored and sparkling ones too!

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