Sake is a very popular alcoholic beverage that originates from the nation of Japan. However, it has become increasingly commercialized and has been exported to other countries due to its’ overall popularity. Specifically, sake is a rice wine that can be made by fermenting rice and which is later polished to remove the bran in the product. Similar to beer, sake is brewed by converting starches into sugars before being turned in alcohol. This brewing process happens in one occurrence where the starch becomes sugar and then alcohol quite quickly. More than beer and wine but less than other kinds of alcohol, sake usually has an alcohol content level of between 18% – 20% total. Sake is the national beverage of Japan and is very ceremonial in its purposes but can also be served with lunch or dinner. It is to be shared with guests whether they are friends or family members. If you’re at the local supermarket and you happen to see a big sale on sake, what should you do? You want to try a new kind of alcohol out and have a big party coming up with friends and family, would it be worth it to purchase a few bottles for the long-term? Would the savings be worth it in both time and money to buy a few extra bottles? The ultimate question remains; does sake go bad?
Does Sake Go Bad?
Unfortunately, sake can and does go bad. Unlike other liquors like vodka, rum, and gin, spirits, which have an almost indefinite shelf life, sake is different. Sake has a shorter lifespan partly due to the fact that it has a lower alcohol percentage and because it is made from fermented rice. Still though, sake has a long lifespan and can be extended even more if the right steps and procedures are taken. It’s important to read on in this article to find out more about how to store sake properly, what its’ shelf life can be, and what are the signs to look for to find out whether or not the sake has gone bad.
Storing The Sake
The most important thing to consider when storing your sake is the climate. Above all else, you want to make sure that the immediate temperature for your sake is cooler than average. You do not want to expose your sake to room temperature or hotter than usual temperatures. Especially if the bottle of the sake is unopened, you want to keep the product cool, dark, and dry at all times. The last thing you want to do is to expose the sake to outside elements such as heat, sunlight, moisture, oxygen, etc. Sake should never be hot, wet, bright, etc. Heat and sunlight will both cause your sake to go bad prematurely.
When it comes to where the store the sake, you should store it in a wine cellar, kitchen cabinet, or other dark and dry place when the bottle has not been opened yet and the seal has not been broken either. However, when the bottle is opened and there is leftover sake to preserve, it would be best to refrigerate the contents at a colder temperature. This is especially the case for unpasteurized sake, which should be refrigerated at all times. Lastly, a bottle or container of sake must always be sealed tightly, especially when it is not being used so make sure to check the status of your cap or cover or else the sake will be at a higher risk of going bad prematurely.
Shelf Life of Sake
Unfortunately, unlike whiskey or wine, sake does not get better with age but actually worsens in quality and texture as time passes by. Sake is recommended to consumers to be consumed when its’ the freshest. This doesn’t mean that you have to consume your sake within a week or even a month after the initial purchase but it is considered best to drink the product about a year to two years in its age. The shelf life can definitely be more than one to two years but that’s at about the point where the sake truly begins to decline in overall appeal.
Even if you keep the bottle closed tightly, the sake’s quality will still decline as time passes by. A bottle of sake that has been aged for six months will most definitely have a better taste than a sake bottle that has been aged for six years.
After opening up a bottle of sake, it is customary in Japanese culture to drink the whole bottle quickly after. This is because the quality won’t be the same even after that same bottle is refrigerated and stored. If you really can’t finish the whole bottle right away, storing the sake in the refrigerator will give you an extra couple of weeks and even months to finish the bottle off. The quality of the sake after significant storage time really depends on the specific manufacturer and the method of storage that was used.
Signs of Bad Sake
There are three different ways to tell if your sake is still good or if it deserves to go into the trashcan. You should first of all check the appearance of the sake to see if there’s any significant mold, bacteria, or clumps developing on the surface of the liquid. If there is also discoloration, then you can definitely tell that there’s a problem with the sake. If you are still not convinced of its’ good or bad quality, you should open the bottle to smell it. A strong or pungent odor that’s different than usual is a bad sign and should warrant some concern. If the original smell isn’t there and the new smell is gross and unappetizing, you should throw out the bottle.
Lastly, you can also do a small taste test with a shot glass or a spoon. It won’t make you sick and it’s the most surefire way to tell if the sake is still good or not. If the taste is awful and you don’t like it anymore, don’t risk your health and rest easy knowing that you can always go to the liquor store to buy a new bottle. Enjoy this delicious beverage from Japan and please drink responsibly!