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Does Sake Go Bad? The Best Way to Use Old Sake

does japanese sake go bad?Japanese Life & Travel

Hi, it’s Junko from Japan. Does Japanese Sake go bad? The answer is NO. Since Sake is a fermented product, it doesn’t go bad and has no expiration date. Japanese law doesn’t require an expiry date for Sake products.

But if you leave the opened Sake for a long time, the condition eventually changes. Though it depends on the type of Sake, the shelf life of Sake is generally one year from the date of manufacture. That means you can taste Sake in its best quality within one year from its manufacturing date. If it’s KIZAKE (unpasteurized Sake, Nama Zake), it’s better to drink it within 6 months from the bottling date.

However, it’s not rare for us to meet old Sake bottles that past more than one year from the production date. Yeah, it often happens to me too! In this post, you can learn two things.

  1. How to handle old Sake or bad Sake you’ve already left for a long time
  2. The best way to store unopened Sake

Let’s begin with how Sake gets deteriorated.

What Kind of Changes Will Happen to Old Sake?

picture: japanese sake cup and tokkuri bottle

Here are the typical features of old Sake.

  • Color: Gets yellow tint from brown tint
  • Smell: Smells like something is burning or smells sour
  • Taste: Gets bitter or has a pungent smell

Sake is originally transparent. But when left for a long time, the color of aged Sake becomes from yellowish hue to brown. It happens because the Amino acids in Sake are changed by direct sunlight or a temperature change. Colored Sake doesn’t harm you. But the smell and the taste also change in many cases, and it may not be good for drinking.

In Japanese, the burning smell is known as NIKKO SHU (sunlight smell), while the pickles-like sour smell is known as HINEKA (old smell). If the bottles are already opened, not only the smell but the taste of Sake has changed too because of the oxidation process. Typical alterations include becoming very bitter or overly hot.

When you find the Sake gets yellowish, take a ship of it first. If it has quirky tastes or strange smells, you don’t need to force yourself to drink it. Even if it doesn’t harm you, it’s meaningless if you can’t enjoy it. Don’t worry, there are some ways of using old Sake!

How Can I Use Bad Sake?

photo: japanese stew in a pan and a cooking sake in a ladle

For Cooking Stew

You can use bad Sake for cooking. Sake is one of the most common seasonings for Japanese traditional dishes in Japan. The Sake flavor makes the dishes rich and sweet. Also, it’s said that Japanese Sake neutralizes the odor of fish or meat and makes them soft. We use Sake for any dishes cooked by stewing and boiling.

For Cooking Rice

If you have a rice cooker, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of Sake per 1 gou (a cup measuring about 150 grams ) of rice. Since Sake is made from rice, they make a perfect match. A little Sake makes rice glossy and sweet!

For Bathing

Sake is rich in beauty ingredients. It’s well known that the hands of Japanese Sake brewers don’t get age and stay fair. Even skilled old brewers have beautiful hands with no wrinkles. Some Japanese women use Sake as a bath additive to keep their skin smooth. Add two or three cups of Sake to the bath and soak in it. You’ll feel your skin get moist and smooth.

Attention: Now that Sake is an alcoholic drink, please don’t try Sake bathing on pregnant women and little kids.

How to Store Sake at Home

photo: a lot of sake bottles

There’re three important rules for a longer shelf life of Sake.

  1. Dark place
  2. Cool place
  3. Keep it vertical

Sake requires a dark place and a cool place as it’s very sensitive to temperature changes and ultraviolet rays. Leaving Sake bottles at room temperature or under direct sunlight will affect the quality of the Sake.

As a result, the best place to store Sake at home is a refrigerator for most Sake. If you want to keep a long shelf life, wrap the whole bottle with newspaper to protect it from sunlight and temperature changes. Thick paper bags will do too. Many Sake shops in Japan use newspapers to keep the product quality. Some Sake breweries also wrap the bottles with newspaper when they ship them to retail stores.

JUNMAI SHU Can be Stored at Room Temperature

The exception is unopened JUNMAI SHU (pure rice Sake) bottles. The Junmai sake can be stored at room temperature since they are heat-treated twice and is stable. But it’s the same that Junmai Shu also hates harsh temperatures like regular Sake. If you can’t find a dark place with fewer temperature changes, keeping Junmai bottles in a refrigerator would be ideal.

Keep Your Bottle Vertical

Sake is sometimes called Japanese wine. But don’t treat it like a wine bottle! You have to store Sake bottles vertically regardless of opened or unopened. If you put them horizontally, more area will be exposed to the air and that fastens the deterioration. Also, placing Sake bottles vertically may cause mold or rust on the lids. To keep them fresh and tasty, make them stand upright!

What Is the Shelf Life of an Opened Sake?

An opened Sake gets deteriorated faster than an unopened one because the oxidation process starts after opening the bottle. It’s said you should drink the opened one within 5 days for the best taste. From then, it eventually loses its original taste.

How Should I Store an Opened Bottle of Sake?

An opened bottle of Sake should be stored in a refrigerator regardless of which type of Sake it is. Once you opened the bottle, it’s recommended to finish it as soon as possible.

If you can’t finish it within a week, moving the left Sake into a smaller bottle would be a good idea. That will prevent Sake from being exposed to the air and keep the quality for a longer time.

I Found Something in an Old Bottle of Sake. Can I Drink It?

Yes, you can. They’re called ORI (sediment) and made from protein included in Sake. It looks like smoke or small fragments floating in a bottle. Be assured they’re not harmful bacteria, and you can have them.

Related Posts about Japanese Sake

Can You Put Sake in the Home Freezer? 2 Reasons You Shouldn’t Do That

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