The Affordable AF Sake That Most Japanese Sushi Bars and Restaurants Use/Serve

Main image: courtesy of Takara Sake USA Inc. Originally posted: 9/18/20 and updated on Sept/27/22

Remember, after several drinks, the less discerning you are (or of sake and a significant other), so these inexpensive sake brands are the ones 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 with 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 are frugal).

This list of popular restaurant sakes is for us Americans, and we only speak “Murican,” so this is how to pronounce sake (fermented alcoholic rice drink) correctly: sah-keh if you are you are like Ken Watanabe or Ariana Grande, or saaaawkeeeeey if you like to lick paint.

If you speak Spanish, your pronunciation of sake will be on point.

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

Why only four? Well, these 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 brands before, if you remember that experience, for you blackout drunks.

Affordable also does not mean mediocre or Olde English 800 vibes, and like most Japanese products, a good value.

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


Founded in 1637 by Jiemon Ōkura in Fushimi, it is one of the world’s oldest companies, and they have continued to grow. The most recent is their state-of-the-art sake brewing facility in Folsom, California.

Johnny Cash vibes.

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

Photo Description: Gekkeikan sake packaging. One of the most commonly seen packaging you'll find in the back of the house of the restaurant.
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.


Ozeki’s original Japanese brewery was founded in 1711 by Osakaya Chobei in Nada district of Hyogo prefecture.  Like Gekkeikan, Ozeki has a California brewing facility in Hollister, California.

Chad and Britney out front of HCo in a mall vibes.

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

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%


The Sho Chiku Bai sake brand was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1933. Today, in Berkeley, CA, Takara Sake USA produces 13 originally brewed types of Sho Chiku Bai products.

Pi Alpha Phi fraternity/sorority party vibes.

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

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%
Polish Rate: 70%
Kosher Certified
Sulfite Free


The history of Yaegaki dates back to 1666 in Himeji city in the Hyogo prefecture, although, unlike every other sake brand, this company is bragging that it is 100% made in California. Except, do you know who in the US cares about that? Only Japanese people from Japan.

People do not drink Corona for New York City vibes which gives Yaegaki lame AF vibes.

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

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%
Polish Rate: 70%
California Rice
Additive Free

How Popular Are These Sake Brands?

I love to look up how competitive these companies are by looking at their approximated web traffic.

If you recollect pounding on a table and yelling “sake bomb,” you most likely have had 1 or 3 of these sake brands.

Drink with your pinky finger up to bring some high-brow class to a sake bomb.

The most popular in order by website traffic.

Gekkeikan 24.96k, 0 paid keywords3.3k
Ozeki31.99k, 0 paid keywords.1.2k
Takara Sake
Sho Chiku Bai
14.26k, 6 paid keywords.13.4k
Yaegaki Very
5, 0 paid keywords.125
After 3 years, Yaegaki is still struggling although the dominant leader online is Takara.

Just How Bad or Good Are These Sake Brands?

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

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
Be sure to take into consideration the number of reviews in relation to the point score.

Where to Buy Affordable Sake

Aside from drinking these at your local sushi bar or finding them at your local liquor store, you might be able to buy these sake brands online at one of the sake speciality sake retailers to large online liquor sellers.

You do not have to eat out and the sake can come to you, if you order from these online specialty sake websites.

BevMo and all the other big retailers have the variety of the oriental aisle in a supermarket (little to none).

Affordable Quality Sake For All

Based on the reviews, popularity, and availability, I guess these sake products are the best inexpensive sake (cheap sake) for the money because a large 1.5L will only run you around $10 to $12 bucks (priced right). That means more drink money, a month of Disney plus for the kids, to going from the medium to the large combo the next day to help you recover from your hangover.

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