8 Popular Sake Cocktails
Once upon a time, sake was produced only in the highest imperial courts of ancient Japan, where it was a delicacy reserved for the most esteemed members of society.1 Thousands of years later, sake remains the national beverage of Japan and an integral part of many Shinto (Japan’s indigenous religion) customs and celebrations. That said, you don’t have to be a diplomat or a deity to enjoy sake.
Though it’s traditionally enjoyed neat, the current sake renaissance is all about cocktails. This is thanks to its fruity, slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with a variety of mixers. If you’re wondering what is sake made of, it’s a work of art created with simple ingredients of rice and water.
Although your tastebuds are familiar with classic cocktails of vodka and tequila, sake cocktails will provide a whole new experience. So, if the thought of creative and delicious sake handcrafted cocktails has you saying sake to me, here are our favorite sake cocktails.
#1 Sakura Smash
Among sake cocktail recipes, the Sakura Smash is unmatched. Bold, flavorful, and refreshing, it incorporates plum sake with cherries, pomegranate juice, and a dash of mint for a truly smashing cocktail.
The ingredients for Sakura Smash include:2
- 3 ounces plum sake
- 6 cherries
- 6 mint leaves
- 2 ounces of pomegranate juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Splash of soda water
To craft your Sakura Smash:
- Muddle the cherries with the mint in a cocktail shaker
- Add the plum sake, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and shake well
- Pour the drink over ice, top it with a splash of soda water, and finish it all off like a pro with a lemon wedge and mint sprig garnish.
#2 Tea of Wisdom
Who says inebriation can’t breed enlightenment? The Tea of Wisdom cocktail proves that you can enjoy sake mixed drinks while still cultivating your inner sage.
The Tea of Wisdom requires:2
- 3 ounces cucumber sake
- 3 ounces green tea
- ⅓ cup fresh cantaloupe chunks
- 1 tablespoon simple syrup
Begin by brewing your green tea and letting it steep. While it chills, muddle the cantaloupe in the simple syrup. Then, combine the tea, sake, and cantaloupe in a cocktail mixer, shaking it thoroughly. Spear a melon chunk with a toothpick for a garnish, take a sip, and let the wisdom wash over you.
#3 The Annie Oakley
Named for the iconic American sharpshooter of the wild, wild west, the Annie Oakley is as accurate as Annie’s aim when it comes to crowd-pleasing sake cocktails. The naturally sweet, fruity flavors of sake are the ideal match for the floral, herbal notes of the other ingredients, ensuring that this recipe never misfires.
You don’t need to be a gun range regular to concoct your Annie Oakley. Begin this sake cocktail recipe by gathering the following ingredients:3
- 1 ounce dry sake
- ¾ ounce aloe liqueur
- 2 ounces hibiscus-thyme shrub
Next, you need to whip up your hibiscus-thyme shrub. If this seems like a challenge, just remember Annie Oakley’s immortal words, “Aim high at a high mark and you will hit it.” But making your shrub is actually quite simple.
Making the actual cocktail is even easier. Simply add the sake, aloe liqueur, and hibiscus-thyme shrub to a cocktail mixer, shaking to combine. Use a strainer to pour the cocktail over ice and garnish it with a spring of thyme.
#4 Toji Moon
While we’re on the topic of sake mixed drinks with an herbal flair, we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight the Toji Moon. This savory cocktail is a brash but warm take on sake, with each ingredient playing to the alcohol’s strongest flavors—from the herbal notes of the Benedictine liqueur to the tart taste of the yuzu juice. It’s a winner all around.
The ingredients include:4
- ¾ ounce Benedictine liqueur
- 1 ounce yuzu juice
- ¼ ounce lemon juice
- ¼ ounce red bean syrup
- 1 teaspoon yuzu marmalade
- 1 ½ ounces Nigori sake
- 1 egg white
Another two-parter sake cocktail recipe. You’ll need to make your own red bean syrup for the Toji Moon. Luckily, this is marvelously uncomplicated. Just combine 1 cup mashed azuki red beans with 1 cup simple syrup in a pot or pan and let it steep for about two hours.
The cocktail itself is a little more complicated, but even the most amateur mixologist can handle these few steps:
#5 Ume Spritz
For a simpler sake cocktail option, consider the Ume Spritz. If this drink proves anything—aside from the versatility of sake—it’s that you don’t need homemade simple syrups or a litany of ingredients to craft a sumptuous sake cocktail.
For the Ume Spritz, you need:5
- 3 ounces plum sake
- Mango La Croix sparkling water
Making it even better, this cocktail requires very little mixing. Just pour the sake into a glass with ice and level it off with the mango La Croix. For a garnish, float a fresh cherry on top.
#6 Kyoto Sour
The Kyoto Sour is a slightly spicy spin on sake cocktails, combining the fruity, apple-pear flavor of junmai sake with sweet agave nectar, tart grapefruit, and a blast of hot Tabasco.6 The end result is a delectable cocktail with just the right amount of kick.
The ingredients you need for a Kyoto Sour are:
- 2 grapefruit slices
- 2 dashes green Tabasco sauce
- 3 ounces junmai sake
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ¾ ounce agave nectar
Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, muddle grapefruit in a cocktail shaker with the Tabasco sauce. Once muddled, add the sake, lemon juice, and a bit of ice, shaking until well combined. All that’s left is to strain the cocktail over ice, garnish with a slice of grapefruit, and serve.
#7 Mango Maiden
Although the spicy bite of the Kyoto Sour is sure to please those with peppery palates, sometimes something colder is what’s needed. If that’s the case, let us introduce you to your new favorite frozen beverage, the Mango Maiden.
Combining Nigori sake with flavors of mango, coconut, and a dash of rum, the Mango Maiden is a delicious, tropical twist on the sake mixed drinks.
To make it, you’ll need:2
- ½ cup Nigori sake
- ½ cup mango nectar
- ½ mango chunks
- ½ cup ice
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- Splash of dark rum
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
Mix all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until the mixture is smooth. For maximum frozen effect, serve the cocktail in a tall glass. To complete the ensemble, garnish this drink with a mint leaf or a speared mango chunk.
#8 Plum Sour
Rounding out this list of sake cocktail recipes is the plum sour, a rich, succulent drink with a distinct, fiery orange color that’s almost too pretty to drink.
In addition to sake, this recipe calls for shochu, a traditional Japanese distilled liquor that’s quite similar to sake.7 But because shochu expresses a more medium-bodied flavor than sake with strong hints of honeydew and rice, it’s an excellent match for the citrus and herbal notes of Aperol, which also gives the drink its orange hue.
The ingredients you need to make a plum sour are:2
- 2 ounces plum sake
- 1 ounce shochu
- 5 ounces lemon juice
- 5 ounces Aperol liqueur
Shake all the ingredients together in a cocktail mixer, then pour the mixture over ice. Allow a couple of destemmed cherries to float amongst the ice cubes for a garnish that’s both tasty and eye-catching.
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- Britannica. Sake. https://www.britannica.com/topic/sake
- The Manual. The Best Sake Cocktails. https://www.themanual.com/food-and-drink/best-sake-cocktails/
- Liquor.com. Annie Oakley Cocktail Recipe. https://www.liquor.com/recipes/annie-oakley/
- Liquor.com. Toji Moon Cocktail Recipe. https://www.liquor.com/toji-moon-cocktail-recipe-5114287
- The Manual. Best Sake Recipes. https://www.themanual.com/food-and-drink/best-sake-cocktails/
- Liquor.com. Kyoto Sour Cocktail Recipe. https://www.liquor.com/recipes/kyoto-sour/
- Satsuma Shuzo. What is Shochu? https://www.satsuma.co.jp/english/con-shiru-shochu.html