Sake in NYC with Toshi Koizumi  - Find. Eat. Drink.

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A Guide by Toshi Koizumi of Wasan in New York’s East Village



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Photographs courtesy of Wasan



General Information


108 East 4th Street

New York, NY 10003

T: 212.777.1978

Website | Menu




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Tucked away on a side street in New York’s East Village is the Japanese restaurant Wasan. “The menu is so good here,” recommends chef Koji Hagihara (Hakata Tonton), “I have a hard time making a decision which dishes to choose.”

Owned by chefs Kakusaburo Sakurai and Ryota Kitagawa (formerly of Inagiku at the Waldorf-Astoria) and sommelier Toshi Koizumi, they showcase authentic Japanese dishes using local ingredients.“I think for our customers to feel more comfortable with our Japanese dishes, we use familiar ingredients for New Yorkers,” explains chef Sakurai. “Instead of using tofu, I use mozzarella cheese. Or I’ll use artichokes in our nimono, which is a Japanese simmered vegetable dish.”

Toshi Koizumi runs the sake program here which features over 40 different kinds with a seasonal sake, unpasteurized sake, undiluted sake and aged sake. He is certified by the Sommelier Society of Wine and was a finalist at the World Sake Competition in the New York region.

Koizumi answers a few sake 101 questions and gives recommendations for his favorite places to buy and drink sake in New York City.

Sake vs. Wine

There are many similarities to wine, but many differences too.

1) Sake is made from rice. 

2) Alcohol content of sake ranges from 16% to 18%, whereas wine ranges from 13 to 16% and beer is around 5%.

3) Just like there are many different grapes to make wine, there are many types of rice used to make sake.

4) You should know the classification of sake: which depends on how much they polish rice and whether alcohol is added or not.


Warm vs. Hot Sake

Sake's temperature range for serving is 32°F to 134°F. We have icy sake and really hot sake. Most of the time we drink it cold. But some sake is good warm, such as the Yamahai style sake & Kimoto style sake. Those are made with wild lactic acid. 

Don't warm Daiginjo & Junmai Daiginjo sakes (see the chart above), because they have floral characters and have a big aroma. People enjoy the smell of the aroma and if you make these sake warm, the aroma disappears.

3 Affordable Sakes To Try

Shintaro Shintaro Junmai Karakuchi $28 (Buy)

It has hints of melon aroma, sharp and well-balanced.

Naraman Origarami Junmai $33 (Buy)

It’s a smooth sake with hints of banana and pineapple aroma. Serve it either hot or cold.

Mizubasho Ginjo Sake $29 (Buy)

It’s clean, pure, and smooth with aromas of green apple and hay.

3 Expensive Sakes To Try

Dassai 39 Junmai Daiginjo $40 (Buy)

It has strawberry and lily aromas, it’s smooth like silk. “39” means the rice is polished into 39% of the original size.

Juyondai Junmai Ginjo $110 (Buy)

Juyondai means 14th generation. It has aromas of peach, apricot, and honey-accented sweetness. It’s well-rounded with an intricate taste.

Born Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai Daiginjo $44 (Buy)

It is unpasteurized, undiluted and un-charcoaled sake. It is rich with hints of cotton candy, honey and has a long finish.


A Guide to Buying & Drinking Sake

Sake Specialists at Sakaya

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This temple of sake is the kind of place you go to when your corner liquor store just won’t do the trick. They carry over 100 bottles of premium sake, all artisanal and unique producers that are not readily available in the US. “The owners (Rick and Hiroko) know a lot about sake and are very good at recommending bottles depending on your situation, such as for a gift or a party or to drink yourself.”

324 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10003

T: 212.505.7253 |

Astor Wines & Spirits

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Astor Wines & Spirits

“I only trust a liquor store where they keep sake in the fridge. I see some liquor stores keep the sake in front of the store, which is exposed to sunlight. Sake should be stored just like a white wine.

At Astor, they store their sake in the fridge. The staff is very knowledgeable and understand both wine and sake. You can ask the staff about sake and they will pick you the best sake for the particular situation.”

399 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003

T: 212.674.7500 |

The Sake Refrigerator and Manager Moju at Ambassador Wines & Spirits

Photograph courtesy of Ambassador Wines & Spirits

Ambassador Wines & Spirits

“They have a fridge stocked with only sake. The ambiance is really cool, especially downstairs which is like a secret cave.”  

1020 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10022

T: 212.421.5078 |

Sake & Shochu at Mitsuwa

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“It's in New Jersey, but it is worth it to come here. It’s a huge supermarket for Japanese groceries. You can get anything Japanese here, including sake and at a lower price too. They also have a shuttle bus from Port Authority.”

595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ 07020

T: 201.941.9113 |


Photograph courtesy of Sakaguru


Travel to Tokyo at this subterranean sake bar and restaurant located in the basement of a nondescript Midtown East office building. Walk past the guard, make a left and head downstairs. “They have more than 300 kinds of sake and a very knowledgeable staff. I usually ask them what is the best sake that I should pair with food.”

211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017

T: 212.953.7253 |


This is a coffee bar during the day, specializing in siphon coffee with pastries and sandwiches, but at night it turns into a sake bar. Toshi recommends coming here in the evenings for their unique selection. “I can try rare sakes in New York City. The ambiance is really cool. Hi-Collar means ‘the fashion-alluding term popularized during the Japanese Jazz Age. Symbolizes Japan's flirtation with the West.’”

214 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003

T: 212.777.7018 |

Sake at Shigure

Photograph courtesy of Shigure


The sake bar owned by the guys from next door's B-Flat cocktail bar. Takahiro Okada (Decibel, EN Japanese Brasserie) and Jiro Yamada (Bar Veloce) showcase small producers for both sake and shochu. They serve cocktails and izakaya small plate nibbles. Toshi says make sure to try their homemade pickles.

277 Church Street, New York, NY 10013

T: 212.965.0200 |


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