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Become A Sake Connoisseur: HIREZAKE 101

Become A Sake Connoisseur, HIREZAKE 101, Japan guide, Food & Recipes

If you’re a Sake connoisseur, you’ve already talked about “Hirezake” or “Kotsuzake” which is one of the unique ways to drink delicious Sake.

The most popular Hirezake is with pufferfish fin, you’ll often meet this odd looking to serve sake at Izakaya restaurants in Japan.

So, why do the Japanese enjoy Hirezake or Kotsuzake so much? How does the taste of Sake drastically change???

In this post, I’ll dig out the most famous but the most unique ways to enjoy Sake.

What is Hirezake?

First of all, HIRE means fin in Japanese, and Hirezake is the serving style of Japanese sake in which charred fish fin (commonly tail fin) is soaked in hot sake.

Hot sake is called “Atsukan”, which is a very common sake serving style, especially in winter.

The back story of Hirezake takes us back to post-wartime which is the time that traditional sake (such as dai-ginjo / junmai-shu was hardly available.

Still, drinking even cheap sake brought the only precious time when the people could put the struggling time behind.

To make cheap sake better taste, they started to soak charred dried fish fins.

The fish fin is dried, charred, and soaked in hot sake.

Fishermen Were The Pioneers?!

It is said Hirezake was brought by fishermen.

When they started to put the grilled fish fins (which was the waste) in hot sake to make their body warm up on a cold day on a boat.

The hot sake, the savory taste of the fish, and the fragrant aroma of the fins made for a good dashi broth.

Today, due to the trend of high-quality sake or local sake called “jizake”, Hirezake / Kotsuzake has been also getting attention among young people.


The Best Fish Fin For Hirezake

So, what kind of fish fin will be the best for making Hirezake?

Indeed, pufferfish fins are often preferred at Izakayas since they are a clear smooth flavor (less fishy greasy taste) and also are composed of two main acids which bring us the Umami taste.

Thus, white fish fins have less grease and a light flavor is preferred to make Hirezake.

Outside of pufferfish, we have stingray fins, red seabream fins, salmon fins, shark fins, bonito fins, flatfish fins…and more in local regions in Japan.

How To Dry Fish Fins At Home

When you like to make dried fish fins for Hirezake at home, wash and rinse fins thoughtfully while removing slimy stuff since it causes a fishy taste.

Rub the fish fins with sea salt and repeat wash and rinse them well.

Optionally, refrigerate the fins overnight then sun-dry them.

Flat fins without overlapping and dry them fully.

Substitute For Fish Fins

Although you can make dried fins at home, (or it’s available if you live in Japan,) it may be better to get substitutes that you can get easily at local oriental grocery stores or online stores.

Dried Anchovy

Lightly broil dried anchovy and soak and infuse hot sake with a lid on for a few minutes.

The hot sake will taste like Japanese dashi broth and you can drink it like soup.

Dried squid has also packed with savory flavor.

The dried squid will be brant after infusing hot sake so you can’t eat them.

Grill Fish Fins

After preparing the fins, toast them slowly with an oven toaster. Line aluminum foil on an inner rack, then arrange the fins.

Avoid burning fins to prevent the sake from bitter flavor.

Toast the fins over low heat until the fins are golden brown and the edges of the fins are browned.

Make Hot Sake

Next, make “Kanzake” (hot sake) for Hirezake.

Make hot sake at about 75 to 80 C (167 – 176F).

It is a bit hotter than regular hot sake which is normally served at 50 to 55 C (122-131 F).

The hotter sake provides rich umami components of the fins that will be infused quickly, making Hirezake more delicious.

In addition, the hot temperature will keep the fishy taste away from the fins.

Using a mug with a lid can keep its aroma more if you like to enjoy the rich aroma.

Here is the guide about hot make hot sake properly in this post.

How To Make Kanzake (Hot Sake) At Home; 4 Methods To Heat Up Sake And The Ultimate Guide Of A Sake Decanter

Moreover, there is an electric Sake warmer to make it easier.

Quick & Easy, Only 13 Minutes You Need; How To Use TWINBIRD Sake Warmer Set

Complete Your Hirezake

Make the Hirezsake with toasted fins and hot sake. Soak 2-3 fins in the hot sake, then cover with a lid. Let the flavor infuse to the sake for about 3 minutes.

Optionally, flaming the Hirezake will be entertaining and make the sake a mild flavor.

Dishes & Nibbles To Serve With Hirezake

Generally, dishes and nibbles that go well with hot sake also go well with Hirezke.

  • seafood
  • vegetables
  • egg


Seafood dishes go perfectly with Hirezake.

Sushi or Sashimi dishes (thinly sliced, raw seafood) such as tuna and salmon are the popular nibbles with sake.

Grilled fishes are also well.

Since Japanese Sake is in rich amino acids that bring out the umami flavor and acidic ingredients in fish neutralize the fishy smell of alkaline fish.

Vegetable Dishes

Colorful and healthy Vegetable dishes are great nibbles as appetizers.

Such as kinpira dish or spicy potato salad added with homemade lime kosho is well-seasoned food that goes well with hot sake.

Gomaae vegetable dish is also popular and easy nibbles for hot sake (or hirezake).

If you like to enjoy Hirezake with the main dish with lots of ingredients to satisfy your stomach, a Japanese hot pot dish is recommended.

Healthy and filling.

Japanese Hot Pot Recipe: Easy Chicken Meat Ball Nabe

Egg Dishes

Just as well as a cocktail called “egg nog” or “tamagozake”, alcohol goes well with eggs.

In the Japanese style, there are egg dishes such as tamagoyaki, Nitamago eggs, Misozuke Tamago, Chinese chives or spinach scrambled eggs, or “tamago miso”.

MISOZUKE TAMAGO For Salad, Nibbles, Ramen: Marinate Boiled Eggs In MISODOKO

Egg dishes are attractive because you can quickly the nibbles that we always stock in a fridge.

What’s Tamago Miso

“Tamago Miso” is a local delicacy from the Tsugaru region of Aomori Prefecture.

The local people often eat Tamago miso when they are sick, as well as a side dish for steamed rice or Japanese sake. Sweet and salty, exquisite balance.

It’s good to serve for a Japanese-style “washoku” breakfast.


Rico McConnellRico McConnell
Just mix eggs, miso, sugar, and sake. It goes well with steamed rice, but it's also a dish that goes well with alcohol. You can also enjoy arranging it by adding chopped green onions and bonito flakes.
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 2 servings


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp Japanese sake
  • 2 tbsp sugar or 1 tbsp honey
  • boiled water


  • minced scallion or chives *optional
  • bonito flakes optional


  • Mix 2 eggs, 2 tbsp of Japanese sake, and 2 tbsp of sugar (or 1 tbsp of honey) in a small mixing bowl, then combine them well.
  • In a large bowl, add boiled water. Place the bowl in that your mixed ingredients and continue mixing until the eggs are getting firm but still smooth and soft. Remove the bowl just before the eggs get hard.
  • Top with minced scallions or chives optionally. Or, mix Tamago miso with bonito flakes.


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Keyword 10-minutes, Alcohol, Easy, Egg, Izakaya, Kid-friendly, Miso, Nibbles, Traditional
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