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Best sake bars in Singapore

We suss out the city's top sake bars to cradle a ceramic cup and unwind over a bottle of rice wine. 'Kampai'!

Orihara Shoten
1/6

Orihara Shoten

Don’t be fooled by its size – this intimate bar houses fridges full of shochu, umeshu and jizake (artisanal sake) from boutique breweries in Japan. None of the labels stocked here are run-of-the-mill. Orihara carries many seasonal, rare and onetime productions among its 200-strong bottles. They range from $60 to $2,000 for dine-in and $35 to $1,500 for retail. Though you can’t order sake by the glass, Orihara does offer tasting flights ($30).

The best way to imbibe is to get a staff to introduce the sake of the day, which changes by the season, or have them recommend you one to suit your palate: how dry, floral or strong you like your rice wine. What sets Orihara apart is its close relationship with its head office in Tokyo. There, a team of seven sake masters regularly update the menu before passing it to head somm Maria Satoh and  her husband, general manager Naoki Satoh, to tweak for local taste buds. 

Try this Limited-time-only autumn sake (price on request), brewed in winter and aged in summer for a well-rounded, balanced flavour.

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Clarke Quay
Bōruto
2/6

Bōruto

The clue is in the name: ‘Boruto’ is Japanese for ‘vault’. Skip past the unassuming façade, hop through the tapas bar on the first storey and climb straight up to the second level – there, you’ll find rice wine stowed away in a literal vault. It houses over 80 brands of prized sake, of which around 50 are exclusive to Boruto, such as the Daishichi Minowamon Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo ($480) and Fukuiwai Junmai Daiginjo 29 percent ($519). To really ball hard, pick up a Juyondai Tatsuno Otoshigo Junmai Daiginjo for a neat $1,380 a bottle.

Don’t be too intimidated by the many options, though: sake sommelier Nicole Lim, co-owner and spouse of Boruto’s chef-owner Patrick Tan, is more than happy to guide you through the 15 kinds of sake available by the glass ($12$85). For pocket-friendlier options, visit during happy hour, on Monday to Saturday from 4.30 to 8pm, when five kinds of sake go for $10 per glass.

Try this Tatenokawa Miyamanishiki Junmai Daiginjo ($16/glass, $218/1,800ml). Served in chilled ochoko (traditional Japanese ceramic cups) or wine glasses, this smooth and flavourful sake pairs well with the tuna tataki ($12.80) with black olives, Japanese leek, chilli and wasabi yuzu dressing.

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Clarke Quay
Bar IPPUDO
3/6

Bar IPPUDO

This alcoholic off-shoot of the Hakata ramen chain is both a kaku-uchi (standalone) bar and a retail shop. If you want a bowl of noodles with your drink, you can also order from the same menu as Ippudo’s ramen joint next door.

Bar Ippudo collaborates with more than 20 sake breweries throughout Japan to bring in over 80 expressions. Led by sommelier Nakasuji Takao, who has visited breweries to taste-test, the line-up boasts labels not only from well-known sake regions such as Nada and Hiroshima, but also oft-overlooked ones such as Shimane and Ishikawa. At present, the store carries ten labels from Fukuoka, where Ippudo originated, of which seven are exclusive to the store. Fifty kinds of sake are also available by the glass ($5-$15) – the most in this list – and if you’ve found your favourite, you can bring a bottle home for only $20 to $140.

Seasonal sake, such as first-press sake and hiyaoroshi sake (typically imbibed during autumn), is also something to keep an eye out for as they come in limited supply. For those keen to learn more about breweries and their sake, Bar Ippudo runs regular sake nights with tasting flights ($18/three measures) and bottle promotions.

Try this Rice wine from two of the ten oldest active breweries in Japan: Yoshinogawa by Yoshinogawa Sake Brewery of Niigata, established in 1548, and Shirayuki by Konishi Brewery of Nada, established in 1550.

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Orchard
JINzakaya
4/6

JINzakaya

Its location away from the city means JINzakaya’s post-work atmosphere leaves much to be desired – so come back on weekends for a buzzier vibe.

The list of 16 sake at this approachable izakaya under the Les Amis Group is split between sweet, dry and even fruit-based sakes. While there isn’t an inhouse somm, the service staff is equipped with basic knowledge on the sakes, and will be able to pick out sakes to pair with JINzakaya’s small plates. Prices are relatively affordable, starting at $30 for a 180-mililitre carafe and $89 to $148 a bottle.

Try this The Tamagawa Man-eating Rock ($119/bottle) wins points for its name, although it isn’t as hardcore as it sounds. This zesty brew from the Kyoto Prefecture is light, crisp and lies on the drier end of the spectrum.

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Farrer Park
BAM! Tapas and Sake
5/6

BAM! Tapas and Sake

BAM! fulfils all the trappings of the now-mainstream hipster decor – naked bulbs, exposed wires and bare concrete walls – but look past that and you’ve found yourself in a popular CBD office crowd stomping ground. Plant yourself along bar facing the open kitchen to get up-close and personal with the lively kitchen staff, and order a few Spanish-inspired small plates to accompany your sake.

The vast selection of sake – at least 100 labels at any time, curated by head sommelier Hardev Singh – is proudly displayed in an impressive glass-walled chiller that greets you the moment you step into the restaurant. Besides the usual Kyoto and Niigata regions, BAM! carries bottles from smaller breweries in Shizuoka and Tochigi for $80 to $888. Thirteen sake labels, including one shochu and one umeshu option, are available by the glass ($8-$18) and, if you’re looking to get boozed up, 300-mililitre carafes ($30-$55).

Try this The smooth, fruity and dry Inaba Stella Junmai Daiginjo ($17/glass, $51/carafe, $120/bottle) goes well with the cold capellini with sakura ebi and uni dish ($42), as well as the kampong egg with baby sotong and chorizo ($25). 

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Tanjong Pagar
ShuKuu Izakaya
6/6

ShuKuu Izakaya

Paper lanterns and noren usher you into a dingy-in-a-good-way izakaya that feels like it’s straight out of a Tokyo back alley. Yes, the owners of ShuKuu are freshening up the post-work drinking scene of our CBD with a slice of life from the Japanese capital – but rather than pints of Asahi, sake’s the order of the day.

Don’t bother with the menu. It changes so frequently that, as head sommelier Luis Liu says, it might not even be updated – ask for recommendations instead. As Liu points out, there are over 3,000 sake breweries in Japan. So rather than limiting ShuKuu’s selection to regions or types of sake, he looks to trends in Japan to bring in new sakes to suit the food, occasion and mood. But at any given time, ShuKuu carries about 50 labels with three expressions sold by the glass ($7-$10) and the others by the bottle ($108-$258).

ShuKuu is also serious about educating customers about the culture and history of sake. Monthly sake classes ($60), called ‘Tasting 1,200 years of Japanese sake’, offer sake enthusiasts a tasting set of six premium sakes handpicked by Liu and expertly paired with the izakaya’s dishes.

Try this Sake recommendations are dependent on the food ordered: Sakemire Jumai Ginjyo ($108) is paired with sashimi, Noguchi Honjozo Nama ($108) with char-grilled dishes and Tenzan Jizake Jumai ($138) with fried snacks. All sakes are on 15 percent discount ’til end of the year.

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Telok Ayer

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By: Time Out Singapore editors

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