Life in Japan revolves a lot around rituals, and one of them is that you shouldn’t pour your own sake—you’re supposed to let others pour it for you. But for bars and restaurants that serve sake, it’s okay to let this one slide, says Tiffany Soto, founder of Sake2You Consulting in Las Vegas, and founder/president of The North American Sake Institute.
“Restaurants are trying to give this extra level of service by pouring sake for customers,” Soto says. But it’s better to let them do it themselves. “From a business perspective, they’re going to drink more, and they’ll have more fun with it,” she notes.
That said, there are other aspects of sake service that operators should pay more attention to. These are a few common mistakes bars and restaurants often make with sake.
Serving sake too hot or too cold. Sake should be served at 45ºF to 55ºF degrees and no warmer than 105ºF.
Not providing enough information on the sake menu. Instead of “puffy language like ‘light and dreamy,’ provide information on the quality level, where it’s from, plus a tasting note,” says Soto.
Not adequately training staff. “Try and be one step ahead of the customer,” Soto says. “If your staff is informed, then the customer is, too, and they’re more likely to spread the word about your sake program.”
Serving sake that’s too old. Sake is stamped with a shipping date, and it should be used within two years of this date, Soto says.
If it’s past its prime, sake gets flabby, earthy and rich and starts yellowing–it should be very clear, she notes. “Even if it’s a little bit yellow, it shouldn’t be served.”--AB