Sweet sakes have a smooth, mellow flavor that makes them easy to drink and popular among people who enjoy cocktails and wine. However, it's surprisingly difficult to find actual sweet sakes on the market. Among those you can find, we tested to find what was the most delicious.
We searched Japanese e-commerce sites (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and Kakaku.com) for the best sweet sakes, chose the 9 most popular products, tested them along with three sake specialists, then rated each sake's deliciousness by analyzing its level of sweetness and the strength of its aroma and flavor. Lastly, we compiled our results into a buying guide about and list of the best sweet sakes available online with extra tips from expert Sandra Gwee.
Josen holds a degree in Brewing Science Studies from Tokyo University of Agriculture. He has been known (and teased) since then as "The Sake Advisor with a Low Alcohol Tolerance," and he spends his days writing about Japanese sake to both spread and enlighten others. He most enjoys sake without prejudice or preconception, simply imagining what kind of place it would suit or what kind of food it would be good with. His motto is "making compromises with Japanese sake fans."
Sandra Gwee is an SSA certified sake educator, sommelier, scholar, and the Director of Kodawari Sake Education. Based in Perth, Australia, she has a passion for introducing sake to new audiences through live events, tasting sessions, and education.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
The products and services listed are ranked independently by the editorial team based on the relevant research (as of 11-04-2022).
Table of Contents
If you're not a newcomer to the world of sake, feel free to skip ahead to the ranking. For those of you that just happened to click on this or are curious to learn more about Japanese sake, we thought we'd give you a rundown of what exactly sweet sake is.
Sake is generally thought of in two types of flavor: dry and sweet. Sweet sakes have a higher sugar content. While sake has official classifications such as junmai-shu and junmai ginjo, there's no official "dry" or "sweet" rating. Sake makers came up with this classification themselves to help customers better envision what their wares would taste like.
Because of this, there are those who may find sweet sakes to taste dry or vice versa. Keep this in mind when reading our ranking; after all, your own taste buds are ultimately the deciding factor.
Check out the link below for more info on dry sake!
According to sake expert, Sandra Gwee, whom we'll introduce later, the taste is one of the most important reasons to choose a sweet sake. Sweetness is always experienced first before other flavors and it's especially good to focus on for most beginners new to sake and who don't understand the flavors of sake yet.
Buying a sweet sake first is a great choice when starting to learn about the drink. Also, most drinkers who choose sweet sakes tend to have a sweet tooth, liking drinks such as Moscato, sparkling wine, Umeshu, mixers, or cocktails.
These kinds of drinkers are known as sweet and easy drinkers who always want something sweet in an alcoholic drink where the sweet profile masks the alcohol flavor. So nigori, plum sake, yuzu sake, or carbonated sparkling sakes will fit their palettes most.
The rich, sweet flavor comes from the rice used to create the drink. The flavor of the rice breaks through the acidity of the drink, and, unless you are sensitive to alcohol, you can really enjoy the natural sweetness stemming from this base ingredient.
However, everyone has a different sense of taste and will detect different levels of sweetness, so it's hard to pinpoint exactly what you'd like without first trying out different drinks.
Here are three big things to look out for when choosing a sweet sake that fits with your flavor profile.
If you're new to the world of sake, you may be wondering what all of those numbers in the table meant. Well, that's the Sake Meter Level (SMV), and it indicates the sugar content in a sake. Anything in the positive numbers is considered dry, and anything in the negative numbers is sweet.
If you're looking for an average sweet sake, look for an SMV between -3.5 and -5.9. Anything below -6.0 is considered super sweet. However, if you get too low in the negative numbers, some people claim it starts to taste dry. Sample different SMVs for yourself and get a feel for what you like.
Negative numbers mean that the sake is sweeter. And you're more likely to be able to see the sweetness levels in sparkling sakes, as they are always measured in SMV. It is actually quite an accurate measurement.
But I find that with normal sakes SMV isn't quite as accurate in measuring sweetness. Rather, temperature plays a key role. The type of rice used in the production process to bring out the richness in the flavor of the drink is also important in determining sweetness.
In rich sakes, it's easy to bring out the sweetness of the drink even if it initially has a dry profile. By changing the temperature at which it's served, dry or extra dry sakes will become sweeter. I find this to be quite interesting and I've played with karakuchi, or dry, sakes and experienced this phenomenon many times. I mostly use the SMV as a guide, as the sweetness is more dependant on temperature.
The words "junmai" and "ginjo" and "daiginjo" have been thrown around a lot in this ranking, but we haven't really explained them, have we? These are some of the 8 different classifications of Japanese sake. What separates them from one another is their main ingredients, method of production, and their ratio of polished rice.
Junmai-shu (純米酒), or sake made using only rice and koji (malted rice)
Junmai daiginjo is considered to be the top rank of Japanese sake; it's very expensive and tends to be served only on special occasions. If you're looking for the most affordable sake, we suggest trying junmai-shu or honjozo-shu.
I wouldn't say that you really need to wait for a special occasion to drink junmai daiginjo. In Japan, daiginjo is known to be special and a waste to drink frequently, so it may be drunk only on special occasions.
However, over here in Australia, daiginjo is enjoyed simply to appreciate the quality of the drink. Although everyone's palette is different, most people enjoy how smooth and clean daiginjos are. They do also understand that it may be pricey, but I say drink daiginjo if it tastes good and use it to toast the brewers' hard work.
Japan has a huge variety of rice, and each type has its own unique flavor that is brought out best with sake. Most sweet sakes are made with mild Miyama Nishiki (美山錦) or Yamada Nishiki (山田錦) rice. On the other end of the spectrum are varieties like Gohyakuman-goku (五百万石) rice, which has a bit of a bite to it.
By sampling different types of sake and reading the label on the bottle to see what kind of rice it's made with, you can start to get a feel of what each type of rice brings to the beverage.
The flavor of the rice is definitely something to keep in mind, but it's not as important for beginners to consider. In fact, sometimes people may find the flavor of rice in sake to be too strong, especially in certain sake-specific rice types.
Typical rice variety sakes tend to be easier on the palette, whereas sake-specific rice can confuse and be too strong for a beginner's taste buds. Experienced wine drinkers have already tried many different types of drinks and have developed their palettes, so are more accepting of stronger rice sakes. You really have to develop your palette to be able to appreciate the full flavor of sake.
If you really want to focus on rice flavor, though, you need to understand the origin of the rice. For example, Omachi rice has a lovely mouthfeel and richness that is absolutely delicious. Gohyakumangoku rice is lovely and soft and doesn't have a strong rice taste. Yamadanishiki rice is deep, rich, fruity, and has a lot of depth.
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Junmai Ginjo Unfiltered Sake
Has a Refreshing Flavor and a Just Right Profile
Gokujo no Amakuchi
Citrusy Flavor and Low Alcohol Content for Light Drinkers
Kuro Junmai Daiginjo Unfiltered Rich and Sweet
Perfectly Sweet Like Honey
Hirotogawa Junmai Ginjo Unfiltered Sake
A Mild-Tasting and Faintly Scented Sweet Sake
Roman Junmai Ginjo Sake
Has a Good Balance of Sweet and Acidic
Sugata Junmai Ginjo Unfiltered Sake
A Sake That's More Bitter Than Sweet
Umenishiki Junmai Ginjo
A Sweet Sake That Would Taste Better Warmed
Amaneko Shirokoji Shikomi Junmai-shu
Too Acidic to Be A Good Sweet Sake
Ine Mankai Red Rice Sake
More of a Rose Wine Than a Sweet Sake
This sweet sake has a refreshing scent that allows you to enjoy your sake experience before you even taste it. The aftertaste is quite crisp as well.
Since the flavor is pronounced but not too strong, we'd recommend having this along with a meal as well as by itself.
This Ozeki sake has a special blend of citrus and sweet flavors that makes it balanced and refreshing. Its aftertaste is definitely noticeable, but it shouldn't be enough to bother you.
Since this particular sake has a low alcohol content, it would be great for those who can't drink a lot of alcohol.
When we sipped this sake for our test, it reminded us of honey. It almost tastes like a dessert. It can start to give off a spoiled smell if left out too long, though, so we'd recommend storing it nice and chilled.
We'd recommend this for those with a sweet tooth; and since the flavor is so sweet and strong, it would probably be better to eat after a meal than with it.
This Hirotogawa sake rose so high in our rankings because it's not too sweet, but it's not bland either. Some may even detect a touch of acidity.
While we do wish it had a bit more character to its flavor, we enjoyed it enough that we'd recommend it to those looking for a mild-tasting sweet sake.
This sake tasted like a very well-crafted drink; it had a great balance of sweetness and acidity, along with a bit of a bite. It's like they took all of the goodness of rice and brewed it into one bottle.
Some of our tasters said they found it a touch bitter, but we'd still recommend it as a good bottle for first-time sake drinkers to try.
We didn't find this to be as sweet of a sweet sake as it was advertised, but we can't say we didn't enjoy it. If you're looking to experience a purely sweet sake, though, you may be disappointed. This would be a good sake for those who like a touch of bitterness.
We didn't notice much sweetness in this sake, but we did notice the intricate flavor of rice shining through. Some of our testers said it might taste better warmed up. Also, the flavor is mild enough that you could have it with a meal.
Some of our testers said this sake tasted like a yogurt drink due to its sour flavor that drowns out the intended sweetness. They also said it would probably suit Italian cuisine, so if that's on your menu, consider pairing it with this sake!
Our testers thought, "It looks like rose wine and it smells like rose wine." Sure enough, when they tried it, it also tasted like rose wine.
Most said this was enough to take it out of the ranking, but others liked its sweet potato-like scent. If you like sweet wines or cocktails, you might like this sake.
Our sake specialists taste-tested each of the sakes at room temperature. They scored each beverage based on its smell and taste, as well as how easily it went down the throat.
Sake that struck a divine balance between sweet and sour received the highest scores. If a sake is just sweet, then it starts to taste like juice; adding some acidity gives the flavor depth and brings out the essence of the rice.
"Raw sake" is common among sweet sakes, and while that means it's fresh, its flavor varies widely depending on how it's been stored.
When sake is spoiled, it gives off a specific type of scent called "hinekaori" among sake fans. It loses its flavor when spoiled, so to avoid this, keep it in a cool place away from light.
When pairing sake with food, you need to consider the taste. Since we're talking about sweet sakes, you should match sweet sakes with sweet foods. In the case of rich food, match it with a rich sake; light foods match with Ginjos. These are basic, tried and true pairings.
Perfectly matching the flavors of both food and sake takes skill. The thing about food, especially Japanese food, is that there are layers of elements that have been combined together that people don't really consider since they're just there to enjoy the experience. But it's good to remember that no matter what kind of food you match with Japanese sake it will never really clash.
However, when pairing sake, unless you are a brewer, it can be hard to understand how to match your drinks perfectly.
But when layers of flavors come into play, you really have to have a thorough understanding of both the sake and food you're plating. For me, I go over every detail, especially if I am holding an event where I have a chef prepare the food.
For example, I need to know what the chef is doing for each dish. I also look for how dedicated and how precise the chef is. If they aren't dedicated or aren't precise, then the food won't shine when paired with sake and vice versa.
But having said that, it's also fun to try pairing sake with non-traditional flavors. For example, I have discovered unique ways to introduce Japanese sake to the Australian market by pairing sake with foods you wouldn't normally think of trying sake with. Have you ever tried sake with chocolate or cheese? It's a fun and delicious combination.
Japan loves alcohol just as much as the next person, and that includes us. Here are some other Japanese alcohols we've tried and tested so that you have a better idea of where to start looking.
No. 1：Kameizumi｜Junmai Ginjo Unfiltered Sake｜24.3 oz.
No. 2：Ozeki｜Gokujo no Amakuchi｜24.3 oz.
No. 3：Murayu Brewery｜Kuro Junmai Daiginjo Unfiltered Rich and Sweet｜24.3 oz.
No. 4：Matsuzaki Brewery｜Hirotogawa Junmai Ginjo Unfiltered Sake｜24.3 oz.
No. 5：Hanaizumi Brewery｜Roman Junmai Ginjo Sake｜24.3 oz.
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