Sake has long been considered the national drink of the Land of the Rising Sun, but the boozy beverage is having a moment in Bangkok right now — and we’re all about it.
Here are some of the places in town to get some quality sake and sake-based cocktails, from fancy, modernized izakayas to a new bar that specializes in the stuff.
Also, just a quick note: although it’s often referred to as Japanese rice wine, sake (sah-kay) is actually closer to beer. With wine, the sugar naturally found in grapes gets converted into alcohol. With beer, starches naturally found in grains get converted into sugars, which are then fermented into alcohol. Since sake is made from rice — a grain — it actually goes through a similar brewing process to that of beer, not wine.
The more you know!
Having just opened in February this year, Yoshi is a small bar that sits at the corner of Soi Sukhumvit 53 and Thonglor 9. It sells sake by the glass or by the bottle, which you listed up on the chalkboard behind the bar. If you’re not sure which to get, then the friendly owner Yoshito “Yoppy” Suzuki is there to help you. From time to time, the bar also hosts events such as cheese and sake tastings (yum), sushi nights and music gigs.
FIND IT: Soi Sukhumvit 53 and Thonglor 9
Orihara Shoten Bangkok
Head out from BTS Ekkamai and walk down the alley to a sake bar-slash-retail store with atmosphere like it’s straight outta Japan. As a sibling to the branches in Tokyo and Singapore, Orihara Shoten Bangkok offers an excellent list of nearly 120 different types of sake, both chilled and hot.
FIND IT: Park Lane 18, Soi Sukhumvit 61
Apart from specializing in yakitori skewers, the modern izakaya — which sits inside a former gambling house — offers plenty of alcoholic drinks to go with its Japanese-inspired bar grub. There are craft cocktails, umeshu and, of course, lots of sake options. The bar is co-owned by chef Chet Atkins and photographer Jason Lang, who also photographed for a book called “Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries.”
FIND IT: 672/49, Soi Charoen Krung 28, Bang Rak, Bangkok
On the second floor of Rain Hill shopping mall lies a minimalist-looking liquor store that houses more than 200 types of sake. You can either buy a bottle to drink at home or grab a seat and taste sake by glass (as cheap as THB100 to THB150 per glass) at the store.
FIND IT: 2nd Floor of Rain Hill, Soi Sukhumvit 47
Among a sprawl of Japanese bars and restaurants in the Silom area, Hanakaruta stands out with its floor-to-ceiling wall of bottles of booze. It’s a perfect hangout on Friday nights to knock back some sake and grab tasty bites of sashimi or Nagoya-style deep-fried wings. The signature sake here is the Take Sake (500ml for THB1,000), which is served from a bamboo bottle.
FIND IT: Soi Sathorn 10
Pairing tempura, skewers and sashimi with sake — cannot go wrong with that. Sitting on the ground floor of five-star hotel The St. Regis, Zuma Bangkok is a Japanese fine dining restaurant for people who like to pair Japanese food with premium sake in an upscale setting.
FIND IT: Ground floor of The St. Regis