Does sake go bad?

How to store sake
Image is owned and taken by TokyoFoodCast.

If you have been consuming and experimenting with sake for a while, then you have surely on more than one occasion asked yourself whether or not a bottle of sake has gone bad. Here we will show you how to tell and, more importantly, how to maximize the shelf life by storing it correctly.

Topics Covered

  • How to tell if sake has gone bad for unopened bottles?
  • How to tell if sake has gone bad for opened bottles?
  • What if it has gone bad?
  • How to store it correctly
  • Can I store sake in the fridge?
The Sake Handbook: All the information you need to become a Sake Expert!The Sake Handbook: All the information you need to become a Sake Expert! – In this 248-page book you will learn everything there is to know about Japan’s national drink.
5 Piece Osaka sake set from Oenophilia5 Piece Osaka sake set from Oenophilia – Includes 1x tokkuri bottle and 4x ochoko cups. Made from quality and durable ceramic.
Sake glass set with warmer/coolerSake glass set with warmer/cooler – This glass set includes 4x ochoko glasses with a holding vessel that can keep your sake either warm or cold.

How to tell if sake has gone bad for unopened bottles?

This is a tricky question because there is no real way to tell unless, of course, you have a good familiarity with the taste of the bottle in question.

You probably checked for the expiration date on the back and didn’t see one. Well, that’s because sake brewers in Japan, unlike their alcohol-producing Western counterparts, do not put expiry dates on their products.

Why is that? Because under Japanese law, it’s not required to put expiration dates on certain types of alcoholic beverages. And that includes, you guessed it, the very bottle of sake you are staring at and doubting right now.

However, there is some good news, and it has to do with the reason why Japanese law decided to forego the expiration date you so desperately seek. It’s not because it remains eternally fresh, in case you’re wondering, but rather because no matter how old that bottle of sake is, it will never kill you or make you sick.

If you still don’t want to drink it unless you know for sure whether or not the bottle has expired, despite this bit of good news, then I will share a little trick.

There is actually a date on the back of your bottle – although not an expiration date. Instead, it’s the date that it was bottled. Sometimes brewers store their sake for a certain period before bottling, so it’s not an accurate indication of the actual age of the sake, but it’s as close as you’re going to get in determining the age.

You will need help in reading the expiration date because it’s written in Japanese unless you are already fluent. No? I didn’t think so. Here is a guide on how to read Japanese dates.

Got the date? Great.

Has it been one year or less since your sake was bottled? If so, you’re all set. It might even still be fresh after two years if you stored it in a cool place.

How to tell if sake has gone bad for opened bottles?

Sake oxidizes fast, so once opened, it goes bad in about a week. It’s best to finish it within three days of opening.

What if my bottle of sake has gone bad?

Does sake go bad?
Image owned and taken by Brostad.

A natural reaction most people will have is to throw it out. You do not necessarily have to do this because, as mentioned, there are no harmful effects from drinking it.

What you can do is try heating it a bit and see if that improves the taste – even if it is a cold premium bottle.

If you still do not enjoy the taste after heating it, then why not use it for cooking purposes instead?

How to store sake correctly

Correctly storing sake can significantly increase its shelf life. Doing so is especially important when dealing with the more expensive premium brands. Also, keep in mind that an unopened bottle will stay fresh for at least a year compared to a week for an already opened bottle.

Keep away from light:

Exposing your bottle to the light, especially ultra-violet light, is probably the single worst thing you can do. Light causes an undesirable chemical reaction with the protein contained in the sake, which leads to it going bad long before its due date.

Fortunately, an ever-increasing number of brewers are adding a green or brown tint to their bottles to help minimize the damaging effect direct light can have on their products. But still, great care should be taken, and the best way to do this is to store your sake in a cool, dry, and, more importantly, dark place.

Keep it away from heat:

Any heat harms perishable items, and this holds especially true when it comes to sake. Keeping your bottle chilly is ideal, otherwise at room temperature.

Keep the bottle in its box:

In most cases, when you buy a bottle of sake, it will come in a box. Most people upon purchasing it will discard the box because, in most cases, the actual bottle looks far prettier than the packaging.

Try not to do this unless you are planning on drinking the whole bottle soon because the actual box provides an additional layer of protection from the damaging effects of light.

Can I store sake in the fridge?

Most types can be kept in the fridge for short periods. For longer-term storage, it would be better to keep it in a cool and dry place. The only type of sake you have to store in the fridge, whether long or short term, is namazake (unpasteurized sake).


Sake can and does go bad, very easily, in fact. Minimize this by storing it correctly and by consuming it within 1 to 2 years from its manufacturing date. If your bottle has indeed gone bad, try heating it and see if that makes a difference to the taste. If still not pleasurable, then rather use it for cooking instead of throwing it out.

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