Drinks

The Affordable AF Sake That Most of the Japanese Sushi Bars Use/Serve

Main image: courtesy of Takara Sake USA Inc.

Remember, after several drinks, the less discerning you are going to be, so these are the inexpensive sake brands you should be slurring the name out as you are also yelling “sake bomb.”

There are three prominent brands that get sold and used in a Japanese restaurants with one up and coming (Yaegaki), and they are typically the house sakes or what we would use to cook in the kitchen. You will also want to to buy these brands of sake for:

  1. A date night (hey, if it is bad date, why not save a little $).
  2. An all-you-can-eat sushi night with the family (those drinks that led to your 5th kid calls for the need for an affordable sake).
  3. Or just because you are cheeeeeeeeeeeeaaaap AF (ok, you’re frugal).

While Other Websites Hype the “5-10 Best Sakes,” I Am Only Going to Name Four Affordable Sake Brands.

Why only four? Well, they are the three most affordable and widely available, and I added a fourth to give you an idea of an off-brand. The three are so widely available that if you have had sake in a Japanese restaurant, you most likely had one or at least two of these three brands before, and if you can remember that experience, it probably was not a bad one because affordable/cheap sake does not mean bad.

NOTE: Product imagery sizes are not actual size and are just meant to depict packaging design.

1). GEKKEIKAN

Brewery: Gekkeikan (Laurel Crown)
Brewed in: Folsom, California
Established: 1637 (Japan), 1989 (USA)
Type: Junmai
Price: $9.99-$11.99, 1.5L (approximate pricing)
Available Sizes: 750ml, 1.5L, 1.8L, and 18L
www.gekkeikan-sake.com

Photo Description: Gekkeikan sake packaging.
The number one brand in terms of popularity based on website traffic.

About: Gekkeikan Traditional is the world’s most popular Junmai-shu! It embodies the signature Gekkeikan style and represents over 370 years and 14 generations of sake brewing experience.

Characteristics: in the words of Gekkeikan “herbaceous with hints of grapefruit and a light earthiness. Good acidity, mineral driven, well-balanced with a clean, medium finish.”

Serving Suggestions: This versatile sake can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature or chilled. Excellent for sake cocktails and infusions.

Food Pairing: Delicious with tempura, full flavored fish and shellfish, fresh green vegetable dishes, and coconut-based Asian dishes. A flavorful base for stocks and marinades.

Alcohol: 15.6%
Product of the USA
Sulfite and gluten free.


2). OZEKI PREMIUM JUNMAI

Brewery: Ozeki Sake U.S.A. (Champion)
Brewed in: Hollister, California
Established: 1711 (Japan), 1979 (USA)
Type: Junmai
Price: $9.99, 1.5L (approximate pricing)
Available Sizes: 750ml, 1.5L, and 19L
www.ozekisake.com

Photo Description: Ozeki Junmai Sake is depicted. The 750ml, 1.5L, and 19L box sake are shown. The two smaller sizes are in green bottles with two gold labels, the Ozeki logo with a red stroked white circle, with a gold looking rope encircling the circle. The label in Japanese and English says "Ozeki Sake".
This is the one I use for cooking, drinking while I’m cooking, to hooking up the prep staff with (to get borracho).

About: Ozeki Premium Junmai is one of the three sake products that Ozeki first brewed in California in 1979. Ozeki Premium Junmai is the traditional style sake that you can enjoy anyway you would like with a variety of dishes.

Characteristics: This sake is dry and delicate on the palate with a full-bodied flavor and well-balanced aroma. Let it warm you in the winter and cool you in the summer!

Serving Suggestions: Best when served either chilled or warm, not hot. The second best way is to drink it at room temperature.

Alcohol: 16%
Acidity: 1.6
Polish Rate: 70%


3). SHO CHIKU BAI CLASSIC JUNMAI

Brewery: Takara Sake USA (sho chiku bai/pine bamboo plum)
Brewed in: Berkeley, California
Established: 1842 (Japan), 1983 (USA)
Type: Junmai
Price: $11.50, 1.5L (wow, you can buy direct)
Available Sizes: 180ml, 750ml, 1.5L, 3L, and 18L
www.takarasake.com

Photo Description: Sho chiku bai product packaging by Takara Sake USA, Inc.
If you have not seen this brand before, try peaking into the restaurants kitchen because this one has got to be number 1 in sales.

About: TAKARA SAKE USA INC., was established in 1983 in Berkeley, California and became a member of TAKARA GROUP, the leading corporation of alcohol related business in Japan. TAKARA has a well of experience producing sake, mirin and shochu, accumulated over a period of more than one-and-a-half centuries. TAKARA SAKE USA has taken pure snow melt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and superior rice from the fertile Sacramento Valley. To this, they apply traditional sake-making craftmanship and modern technology to produce a sake worthy of TAKARA mark.

Serving Suggestions: Served chilled this Classic Junmai Sake offers a very fine texture with harmonious aromas and flavors of macadamia nuts, Chai spice (cardamom, nutmeg), vanilla, heavy cream and freshly sliced bread.

Served at room temperature, notes of mineral, creme fraiche, sourdough bread, custard, umami and apples emerge.

When warmed to around 100º F., the texture and flavor build, bringing out more intense umami while still retaining softness of texture. Savory elements of salted custard, cocoa nib, banana bread, toasted nuts and mineral are evident.

Alcohol: 15%
Acidity:
Polish Rate: 70%
Kosher Certified
Sulfite Free


4). YAEGAKI SAKE JUNMAI

Brewery: Yaegaki
Brewed in: Southern California
Established: 1666 (Japan), 1987 (USA)
Type: Junmai
Price: $11.99, 1.5L (approximate pricing)
Available Sizes: 300ml, 750ml, 1.5L, 18L
www.yaegaki.com

Photo Description: Yaegaki sake product packaging.
Yea, this is the least popular/common of the three listed, so they do not have product photography as widely available.

An Interesting Bit About Yaegaki: Over time, Yaegaki has branched out and progressed steadily by developing newer technologies and a variety of businesses ranging from brewing-machine making to present-day biotechnology. Now, of course, we have crossed borders and brew sake in the U.S. Though the two countries are geographically distant from each other, the traditional Japanese spirit and methodology of Yaegaki lives on in its U.S. brewery.

Product Description: Yaegaki Sake Junmai represents the top of Yaegaki’s domestic sake line. It is a dry, medium-bodied sake with a crisp acidic finish that can be referred to as “food friendly.” It can be drank either warm or cold, and complements any Asian cuisines.

Food Pairing: By itself or with meals with lighter flavors, foods with rich flavors, mainly Asian cuisines, but also with Western dishes as well.

Serving Suggestions: Chilled, room temperature, medium hot.

Alcohol: 15-16%
Acidity:
Polish Rate: 70%
California Rice
Non-GMO
Additive Free

How Popular Are They?

I love to look up how competitive the are by looking at their approximated web traffic. You can do that with this great SEO tool called SpyFu, and if you have have never used them, sign up for an account today.

Just How Bad or Good Are They?

Well let us see what the “experts” or should I say the opinionated think via the web.

GEKKEIKAN
JUNMAI
OZEKI
PREMIUM
JUNMAI
SHO CHIKU BAI
CLASSIC JUNMAI
YAEGAKI
JUNMAI
Amazon4.5/22 global ratings4.3/132 global ratings4.3/90 global ratings4.2/7 ratings (SG)
Google N/A4.6/16 reviews4.4/39 reviewsN/A
Influenster4.2/219 reviews*4.7/14 reviews4.3/59 reviewsN/A
RateBeer.com2.41/197 ratings3.01/13 ratings2.72/138 ratingsN/A
TotalWine.com4.2/19 reviews4.8/4 reviews4.6/7 reviewsN/A

Affordable Quality Sake For All

Based upon the reviews, popularity, and availability, I guess you can say these sake products are the best inexpensive sake for the money because a large 1.5L will only run you around $10 to $12 bucks (that’s priced right). That means more drink money, a month of Disney plus for the kids, to being able to go from the medium to the large combo to help you recover from your hangover.

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