All about handcrafted sake sets

A sake set is a set of cups, flasks and other elements used to drink and serve this millenary beverage. They are usually made of ceramic and handcrafted. These sets of pieces are considered something traditional to keep for a lifetime.

In this article we are going to talk about the different elements that compose it, some styles of ceramic pieces, their characteristics, how to serve sake, the different temperatures and much more.

The pieces that make up a set of cups and bottle can also be purchased separately, however the ideal is to maintain the same aesthetics and style in all of them and that we buy them from the same artist. There are different cups, they come in greater or lesser numbers and some sets come with a heater to keep the drink at the right temperature.

When one begins to get to know this drink, one discovers with curiosity two things that we take for granted and are not entirely true:

One is that sake is to be served hot. Well, not always, as you will read below depending on the type of drink, the environment, the occasion, it can also be served at really cold temperatures.

The other is about the word sake itself (its ideogram or kanji is: 酒). This in Japanese refers to any alcoholic beverage. While we associate it only with liquor made from fermented rice or “rice wine”.

In case you are curious, this type of rice drink in Japanese is commonly called nihonshu (日本酒).

Sake set with two guinomi
Sake set with two guinomi, by Ritual Ware

Ceramic sake set

Ceramic sake kits are uniquely beautiful, each one is something very special and can be a great gift option. So, having one is a way to surprise guests by offering them an increasingly appreciated drink, which some may not even have tried. Plus doing it the proper traditional way is a way to appreciate this drink properly.

A typical set comes with cups, and a jug or bottle (called a tokkuri) with sufficient capacity.

Sake cups can be of various types:

  • Guinomi, with a certain height and often made of stoneware, with a rough texture.
  • Choko, smoother and cylindrical in shape.
  • Sakazuki, lower in height and wider at the top.

A set of handmade ceramic pieces are already a beautiful decorative element. Throughout this article you will see some nice examples of the different types of cups mentioned.

In Japanese pottery it is usual to use cherry blossoms or other hand-painted floral motifs.

The cherry blossom design is a traditional Japanese symbol of positive energy and emotional inspiration. A set with this decoration will look beautiful anywhere.

Handcrafted sake set with floral motifs
Handcrafted sake set with floral motifs by Alicia, from Osaka Connection

Japanese sake set

When it comes to a gift for a sake lover, a Japanese sake set is a fantastic choice. The sets created by the potters are a perfect combination of traditional Japanese design and modern style. It will also make a good gift idea for someone who drinks this beverage occasionally but doesn’t have the right items to serve and enjoy it.

Many are dishwasher safe, although it may not always be recommended.

Japanese sake is served in a special way. Drinking it straight from the bottle is considered inappropriate by the Japanese. Therefore, the typical Japanese sake set contains a set of cups, glasses and o-chokos. A choko or o-choko (お猪口) is the name given to the small, cylindrical cup. Each set in ceramic is handcrafted and made with their special variety of clay and treated with various glazes.

O-choko sake cups
O-choko cups by Studio Marjolein Kors

One type of pottery that is highly prized in all kinds of items, not just those intended for this rice-based beverage, is Kutani porcelain. This is the name of an area in northwestern Japan famous for its ceramics. Kutani sake sets are highly valued.

Ceramic set with warmer

What is a sake warmer? It is a very common device in Japan and necessary if we want to serve warm sake, called “Atsu-kan” or “Nuru-kan”, with a little lower temperature (see table below with all the names and their degrees).

There are electric, on which is placed the container from which we will serve the sake or those containing a candle inside, on them is placed a pot with water containing the bottle of sake or Tokkuri.

Sake set with warmer
Sake set with warmer by Rabitto Fakutori

How to serve sake

When pouring the sake, you must be very careful not to spill the liquid. You can wrap the carafes with a cloth so that they do not drip. It is also important to follow Japanese culture when pouring sake. There is no need to be formal, but make sure that the needs of your guests are your priority.

Sake is traditionally served in ceramic vessels. Some experts say that porcelain is the best material to use, this is subject to debate so don’t limit your choice to this type, other ceramics are also available. Other types are suitable for serving sake when it is hot.

Sake can be served at many different temperatures, from chilled, to room temperature, to hot. It depends on the type of sake, the type of food it accompanies, the occasion and the tastes of the guests.

Ideally, the temperature should be adjusted to the type of sake to be served.

Traditional Sake Set
Traditional Sake Set by Lanexs Sake

At which temperature to serve sake

The Japanese use a traditional scale to define at what temperature to serve sake, it may be useful if you are going to familiarize yourself with the use of this ancient drink. Some of them have very poetic names.

TemperatureJapanese NameTranslation
55°C (130°F)Tobikirikan (飛び切り燗)​Hot pipe
50°C (122°F)​Atsukan (熱燗)​Hot
45°C (113°F)​Jōkan (上燗)​Slightly hot
40°C (104°F)​Nurukan (ぬる燗)​Tibio
35°C (95°F)​Hitohadakan (人肌燗)​Body temperature
30°C (86°F)​Hinatakan (日向燗)​Sun heated
20°C (68°F)​Jōon (常温)​Room temperature
15°C (59°F)​Suzuhie (涼冷え)​Autumn breeze
10°C (51°F)​Hanahie (花冷え)​Cold spring flower
5°C (41°F)​Yukihie (雪冷え)​Winter snow
-5°C (23°F)​Mizorezake (みぞれ酒)​Slush Sake

Properties according to sake temperature

In this other table we are going to explain the differences between serving sake hotter or colder. It will have different properties depending on its temperature:


  • Cleaner flavors
  • Less umami
  • Improved ginjo flavors
  • Sharper body
  • Refreshing impression
  • Excessive cooling can lead to bitterness


  • Richer Flavors
  • More Umami
  • Reduced Ginjo Aromas
  • Fuller Body
  • Warming Effect
  • Over-heating can lead to overt alcohol taste

Tokkuri bottle

The tokkuri bottle is a traditional Japanese container for holding and serving both hot and cold sake. Some are made of Japanese Saga porcelain (Saga is a prefecture located between Nagasaki and Fukuoka). This material is more resistant and less porous. Its beautiful glaze veins make serving sake a beautiful gesture.

In general, to maintain the beauty of this Japanese drinking vessel, it should be cleaned by hand with warm water. It should not be put in the microwave or dishwasher.

Along with the tokkuri, a nice set of sake glasses will make your guests feel special. Whether you’re planning a dinner party with a difference or an evening with friends, this set will ensure that the occasion will be unforgettable.

Handmade ceramic tokkuri
Handmade ceramic tokkuri, by Ritual Ware


The Sakazuki sake set is a special set of pieces that is usually used for special occasions. It includes a pitcher, cup and glasses. The cups have a traditional Japanese motif and are made of various materials. The design is based on a shell, which makes the cups original and attractive.

They are usually kept in a wooden box to preserve the pieces well.

The Sakazuki sake set is unique because it is often used for ceremonial purposes. It is often used at weddings to serve sake, but can also be used for other beverages.

They are often given as a gift to commemorate a special event or as a gift to a new partner. As such, these sets are more than just functional; they can also be a beautiful addition to any collection.

They are used in traditional Japanese ceremonies, such as weddings.

Sakazuki cups are the most traditional type, with a wide opening at the top and a shallow bottom.

Sakazuri Cup for Sake
Sakazuri Cup by Studio Marjolein Kors

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This of course does not affect the selling price.

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