Hirezake – Japan’s Weirdest Hot Saké Drink?


There is still a chill in the wind and one of the fun hot drinks to warm up with is hirezake. The fin of the fugu (blowfish or puffer fish) is grilled over a flame until charred and then put into a cup of hot saké to steep. More for fun than for flavor, but a nice change-up from the hot saké or shōchū that I usually drink. We usually make hirezake from fugu fins that we buy in packs from Tsukiji Market. But, came across this the other day and had to try it. In southern Japan fugu is called fuku, which is a nice play on words, for good luck or fortune. On the package it is called fuku no hirezake.


The box comes with a hiré (fin) from a fugu that has already been charred. It also comes with saké that can be heated in the microwave for a few minutes.


The charred fugu hiré.


It wasn’t as good as the version we make at home when we char the fins directly over a flame. I could hardly even sense any of the smokiness that we usually get. If you are visiting Japan and see it on a menu, do order it. It is a fun drink, and something I think you can only find here.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. shirleyhkapa says:

    So interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Vincent Tritto says:

    Hello Ms. Sakamoto —

    Pretty sure Hirezake is on the drinks menu at Azusa, a long-time Japanese restaurant on East 44th St off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. One of my colleagues ordered it at lunch once, despite my telling him what it was. I think they served it so hot as to be undrinkable (for him) for a while, but the fin was white and not smoked as in your picture below or as you describe. It also may be on the menu at Restaurant Nippon (which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary here in NY, and supposedly is Caroline Kennedy’s go to Japanese restaurant in the city, before she became ambassador), as another colleague (this time a senior bengoshi) enjoyed this drink and frequented Nippon often.

    Loved your book and your posts — keep up the good work!

    Kind regards.


    1. Thanks for this! Yes, hirezake is usually served very hot and I often have to let it cool down before I can start drinking it. Not familiar with Azusa, but a big fan of Nippon. The owner is very kind at Nippon. Thanks for the kind words about Food Sake Tokyo, the book and the blog. Cheers, Yukari

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