Bottle of sake with sake cups on a tray
Why Pouring Etiquette Matters When Drinking Sake
From beer to whiskey, alcohol is a prominent part of Japanese culture. When it comes to the country's iconic sake, there are a few important etiquette tips to keep in mind.
Sake is served out of a specific vessel called a tokkuri. You should never pour for yourself but rather offer sake to others and pour their drinks for them.
To serve someone, hold the tokkuri with your right hand and use your left hand to prop the bottom. Pour a stream that starts weak, increases in intensity, and ends gently.
Once you’re finished pouring, rotate the bottle to avoid any spillage. It may sound strict, but it shows respect, particularly when pouring for someone older or of greater status.
To receive sake, hold your empty cup with both hands, using your right hand to hold the cup and the left for support. Once poured, take a small sip before setting it down.
These rules are mostly due to politeness and tradition but there’s also a superstitious dimension. Any lapses will be noted by fellow drinkers and indicate future misfortune.
Although you can find sake in both formal and casual settings, it's best to adhere to his etiquette out of respect. Note that it can loosen up as drinking continues.