Why You Should Avoid Drinking Sake Like A Shot

Though people serve sake, or fermented Japanese rice wine, in small cups (known as guinomi or choko), you should avoid drinking sake like a shot. One reason is because sake is meant for sipping and cooking in Japan. And just as there's a right way to drink other fermented spirits like beer and white or red wine, there's a right way to drink sake. You sip it slowly to enjoy all its nuanced notes and subtle sweetness. 

In Japanese culture, it is also disrespectful to drink sake like a shot. Sake as a drink is meant for sipping and enjoying among friends, loved ones, or colleagues. You're also not supposed to serve yourself sake. When your sake cup is empty, it is common for someone to serve you another pour. So if you're in Japan, aside from disrespecting the Japanese culture, when you drink sake like a shot, you'll probably be drinking sake all night long. While sake is not as strong in alcohol content as rum or bourbon, it is around 15% to 22% alcohol by volume (ABV). This often makes sake stronger than beer and wine. 

Because you should sip your sake slowly, it's a good drink to pair with food, like sushi. To learn more, here's Tasting Table's recommendation of nine foods you should pair with sake.

The only time you drink sake as a shot is when it's in a sake bomb

There's another reason why sake is meant to be sipped and not enjoyed as a shot. According to Sake Social, if a spirit is not usually associated with the word "proof," it should not be knocked back as a shot like the hard liquor spirits associated with the word proof. These other hard liquor spirits include whiskey, rum, bourbon, and tequila, all of which people can (and often do) enjoy as shots. Shots are meant to be strong, with a bit of a burn and shock value. Sake, as an alcohol, is just not hard enough to be intended as a shot.

However, there's always an exception to every rule, and there's actually a time when you can and should drink sake as a shot — or rather, in a shot. Sake bombs are popular in the U.S., especially in university towns. Sake bombs consist of a "shot" of sake resting on chopsticks atop a glass of beer. One smash of a fist to the table and the sake glass falls into the beer. Then, you're supposed to guzzle this fun drink all the way down in one go.