Like anything else, finding the right place to drink alcoholic fermented rice depends on your mood. You might, for instance, be looking for an underground Japanese jazz bar in Midtown that maps the range of each sake’s dryness and heaviness. Or maybe you want to drink American-made sake at a brewery in Industry City, and learn why some bottles are served chilled and other types are served at room temperature. It’s also possible you’re in need of a date spot in the East Village that feels like you’re drinking at a late-night bar in Tokyo. No matter the particular situation, our guide has 9 incredible places to drink sake (and learn about it too). These are our favorite sake bars in NYC.
Want to know more about the best new places to drink in NYC? Read our Bar Hit List and start planning your night out.
Satsko is one of those places we walked by a hundred times without realizing what we were missing. Don’t be like us. This East 7th Street bar was opened in 2004 by a woman named Satsko Watanabe. Now it’s run by her daughter, Amy. During the early hours, Sake Bar Satsko is a perfectly pleasant place to hang out, eat some squid jerky, and drink a carafe of junmai ginjo sake that tastes like honeydew. Stay late enough, though, and the music will start to bump, and you might see someone buying a round of sake bombs for strangers. Each of the 30+ sake options available are accompanied by helpful tasting notes and explanations written on the menu. So if you want to learn about sake and get a little rowdy all in the same evening, Satsko is a great place to be.
We would bet everyone who has ever entered Sake Bar Decibel in the East Village has been delighted by the experience. They’ve also probably been drunker than they realize upon leaving. Look for the “ON AIR” sign on East 9th Street, and walk downstairs. Graffiti covers the walls, tinted red light flood the bar, and the whole thing feels like a late-night Tokyo drinking den. Sake Bar Decibel only offers three carafe and glass options, so if you’re serious about trying things like fruity ginjo sake or the cloudy style of sake called nigori, we’d suggest opting for a bottle. Bring just one other person here, since tables get filled fast and it can be hard to find seating for a group.
We unfortunately can’t think of too many bars in NYC where you can watch someone play the cello while drinking super dry, full-bodied sake and eating okonomiyaki and creamy cod roe spaghetti. That’s what makes this tiny basement Japanese spot on East 53rd Street special. Tomi Jazz hosts live jazz every night starting every night at 6pm and 9pm (and only charges a $10 cover on Friday and Saturday). You could come to Tomi Jazz just for drinks - they have enough whisky and sake options to warrant a Dewey Decimal System - but you’d be missing out if you didn’t at least get a snack. All the seating is first come, first served so we’d recommend arriving early.
Accidental Bar represents the newest sake bar on the guide, but it’s also already one of our favorites. The energy here feels unpretentious and fun, and you can learn a ton about sake without realizing it. The owner, Austin Power, has spent over a decade working in sake at places like Satsko and Tokyo Record Bar. He organizes the menu geographically from the North to South of Japan, and uses descriptions like “summer BBQ creamed corn,” “stiff paloma vibes,” or, “like someone spiked your Sprite at prom.” Hang out at the bar and ask the staff questions about the menu - that’s the best way to experience Accidental Bar.
Sakagura and Sake Bar Decibel were both opened by a man named Bon Yagi in the 1990s. Does that designate Bon Yagi as the de facto sake king of New York? We aren’t here to comment on fictional monarchies. What we do know, however, is that Sakagura’s underground setting makes it one of the most unusual places to have dinner or drinks in all of NYC. To get to Sakagura, you walk through the lobby of a very normal office building in Midtown, pass a security guard, then head down a flight of stairs. Right now they’re offering three different sake tastings, each curated by the sommeliers. These range in price from a $30 beginner flight trio to a $40 dry flight trio, and the most deluxe $100 trio tasting. You can pair any of them with a five-course, $85 prix-fixe meal or order drinks and snacks a la carte. Just be sure to book in advance either way.
American sake is still relatively underrepresented on the sake scene. So you’ll rarely find menus with sake made anywhere close to the place you’re drinking. That is, unless you go to Brooklyn Kura in Industry City - one of only two sake breweries in all five boroughs. Brooklyn Kura is a great place to bring a group on a weekend and try a glass of sake called “Occidental” that tastes a little like hoppy beer and bananas. (It’s delicious, even to those who live in fear of bananas.) We’d also recommend a bottle named after nearby Greenwood Cemetery that’s made in the Kimoto brewing style, which takes way longer than typical methods, and produces funky, acidic sake. Ask questions when you go, and you’ll have an even better time. (If you’re interested in trying Brooklyn Kura outside of Industry City, Decibel and Accidental Bar both carry some of their sake).
In the past, we’ve used Midtown’s Sake Bar Hagi 46 as a meeting place for friends and family members before seeing a show. Between the records on the wall, the price range for sake (which starts at $8) and the ebi shumai that’s perfect for snacking, Sake Bar Hagi works well for any casual drinking situation. They also have a bunch of shochu - made from sweet potatoes, sugarcane, or barley - and plum wine to try as well.
A useful Tribeca bar to know about for sake-focused and non-sake-focused nights alike, Shigure serves a long list of sake made all over Japan behind an unmarked door on Church Street. The atmosphere here generally stays calmer than a party-time cocktail spot, all while feeling nicer than a neighborhood dive. Come for Happy Hour on Monday-Saturday from 4-7pm for $5 cups of dry-leaning junmai sake as well as discounted (and delicious) sashimi and karaage.
The aforementioned king of sake (Bon Yagi) also owns this all-day cafe in the East Village. Hi-Collar stands out from the rest of the bars on this guide because you can come for breakfast or lunch and enjoy omurice, tea, and katsu sandos, then return to the narrow bar space for shochu, whisky, plum wine, and sake later. Hi-Collar only serves four options for sake by the cup, but they’re available in different styles that correlate to the percentage that the rice has been polished down (respectively called daiginjo, ginjo, and honjozo).