East Village, New York, Manhattan, Liquor Store, Sake, Shochu, Japanese, East 9th Street, Drink, Wine, Specialist, Authentic, Hard to Find Sake, Import, Brewer, Sakaya, experts, knowledgeable sales.


East Village - New York, NY

Q & A


Rick and Hiroko’s recommendations on where to drink sake in New York.

Sakaya isn’t just a store, it’s almost a temple to sake. The kind of place you go to when your corner liquor store just won’t do the trick. They carry over a 100 bottles of premium sake, all artisanal and unique producers that are not readily available in the US.

Owner Rick Smith fully understands how dizzying and intimidating buying sake can be. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a novice, thinking the stuff tasted like jet fuel.

At the time, his day job was working at Food and Wine magazine, his night times often filled with entertaining clients. It was over one of those business dinners that his future began to unfold. Jack Lamb, the owner of the small East Village sushi restaurant Jewel Bako, offered him his first taste of premium sake. Rick says it was his “aha” moment. The moment when you pause because you’re tasting something so special.

It was special enough to turn into his passion, which drove him to seek knowledge and education. Ten years after tasting that first sip of premium sake, he and his wife, Hiroko Furukawa, created a store that has become a destination for dedicated sake lovers.

The entire focus of Sakaya is sake. Even the name literally translates to sake store. Its location on East 9th Street is amidst the two block run of Japanese restaurants, tea houses, and grocery stores.

Rick and Hiroko seek out the most unusual sakes they can find, especially those new to the US. Their criteria is to keep the store feeling balanced with a variety of sizes, styles, price points, and different geographical regions. They also sell online and will ship as far as Alaska.

Once a week, Sakaya holds a free sake tasting. Most weeks they bring in an expert, often the actual brewer or importer, to give a little education about what they’re sampling on that day.

If you want to learn about a product, don’t shop from the guy who stocks a few bottles of sake because he has to, shop from the guy who gave up his day job for his passion. 

Rick’s tips on drinking Nihonshu (日本酒), meaning Japanese sake:

Q. Warm vs cold?

A. All bad sake is served hot, but there are sakes that can be enjoyed warm.

Q. Should I pour my own sake?

A. Each person should pour for the other. It’s customary to pour for your companion, and visa versa. The small sake cups are not for shooting and downing the sake, but for pouring more often to show generosity.

Q. What kind of sake cup is best for drinking?

A. A glass, cup, or lacquer box is best. The cedar box is the least desirable, since the sake taste will be influenced by the cedar.

Q. For novices, what is the best sake to pair with sushi?

A. Go for a flavor profile that will pair with the taste of the vinegar in the rice, which is usually the most prominent flavor. Look for good acidity, light in body, soft round texture with some sweetness.

Q. What is non-filtered sake?

A. Technically, it’s not completely pressed. Nigorizake (濁り酒) is cloudy sake. Taste is really a personal preference, but according to Rick, it’s essentially the White Zinfandel of sake.


Details of Rick and Hiroko’s recommendations on where to drink and buy sake in New York.


Sake Specialty Store

East Village

324 East 9th Street

New York, NY 10003 (view map)

T: 212.505.SAKE (7253)






Mon - Sat: 12pm - 8pm

Sun: 12pm - 7pm