What Is Sake?

Published on  Updated on  

Sake has been around for centuries and is a popular drink in Japan. But, what exactly is it? It’s a Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented rice. In Japanese, the drink is referred to as “Nihonshu.” It’s often referred to as rice wine, but more closely resembles beer in terms of its brewing process and flavor profile. Sake has been enjoyed for centuries by people in Japan and continues to grow in popularity around the world. It is part of Japanese culture. In this post, we discuss a brief history of sake, how it is made, and how to drink sake.

History Of Sake

This beverage has been brewed in Japan for more than 2,000 years. According to Toki, The first mention of sake is in the Kojiki, which is a Japanese history book from 712 CE. It is believed that sake was first introduced to Japan from China. The methods of brewing were refined over the centuries and by the 1600s, sake was being brewed using the koji method.

During the Meiji period (from 1868 to 1912), many changes were made to the brewing process. Mass production began, with sake becoming growingly popular in Japan and overseas. But, in the early 20th century, production declined due to competition from other alcoholic beverages. In the 1970s, with new technologies and improved brewing methods, production increased again. Today, it is still brewed and enjoyed by people all over the world. sake bottle and cups

How Is Sake Made

Sake is brewed using traditional methods as well as modern techniques. It is made from rice, water, koji, and yeast; some types of sake have alcohol added to them in the process. There are different types of sake, and each one is made slightly differently. However, the basis of the process remains fairly the same: it’s made with short-grain rice that has been milled down to make it easier to ferment, then it is fermented.

The brewing process begins with polishing or milling the rice to remove the bran. The percentage at which the rice is polished varies between the different types of sake. The more the rice is refined, the bigger the percentage is. The rice is then washed, soaked, and steamed in a steamer. Koji — which is a type of mold — is created with some of the steamed rice. Then, fermentation happens; the starter is a mix of steamed rice, water, yeast, and koji. The process breaks down the starch into sugars, and they are then fermented into alcohol. When the fermentation is complete, the sake is pressed and pasteurized before being bottled. In some kinds of sake, pure alcohol is added to the fermented drink. bowl of rice and sake cup

Different Types Of Sake

As previously mentioned, there are a few different types of sake. Their difference lies in the way they are prepared, and therefore, slightly affects their flavors and richness. The biggest distinction between the different kinds is their rice milling process and whether alcohol is added. Below, we have a list of some of the main kinds of sake:

  • Junmai: Junmai (or Junmai-shu) is pure sake. It is made with just rice, water, and koji without any added alcohol. According to True Sake, for this type of sake, traditionally there is 70% processing or milling, but now it can be anything as long as it is displayed.
  • Ginjo: Sake that is considered Ginjo has rice that is polished to around 60%. It has a floral or fruity flavor, and has a lighter profile. There is added alcohol to this kind of sake.
  • Junmai Ginjo: This type of sake is the counterpart to Ginjo, but does not have any alcohol added to the process.
  • Daiginjo: This type of sake features milled rice with a percentage of at least 50%, according to True Sake. There is alcohol added to this sake, and it is one of the highest grades of sake.
  • Junmai Daiginjo: This sake is fuller bodied than its counterpart, Daiginjo, but this type does not have any alcohol added to it.
  • Honjozo: This type uses rice that has been processed to around 70%, according to True Sake. It has added alcohol, but which keeps it relatively light and not as potent. This kind of sake is typically enjoyed warm.
  • Namazake: This type of sake is unpasteurized. Any kind of sake can be namazake, as long as it is unpasteurized. Namazake, or unpasteurized sake, should be left refrigerated.
  • Futsushu: This kind of sake is often referred to as “table sake” or “ordinary sake.” It has no regulations — meaning no specific requirements when it comes to rice milling — and is a more affordable option.

How To Drink Sake

In addition to the different ways sake can be made, there are also different ways sake can be enjoyed. Because it is such a versatile beverage, this drink can be served either warm, cold, or room temperature. Depending on which type of sake you are having will likely influence the way that it is served. For example, ginjo, junmai, honjozo, and futsushu are usually served warm or hot, while daiginjo- and ginjo- sakes are served chilled.

It can also be enjoyed on its own or with a meal. When having sake with a meal, it’s best to pair it with food that isn’t too heavy or rich. It goes well with other Japanese dishes such as sushi, sashimi, and more. In traditional practices, it is typical for others to pour for you and for you to pour for others. Because of this beverage’s rich cultural influence, it is seen as a symbol of friendship and goodwill. 

Enjoy Some Sake!

Because of its rich Japanese background, sake is a drink that is unique in its production, taste, and experience. Sake can be enjoyed as a way to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, or just to try something new. The different kinds of sake and the way they are prepared to show the dedication and richness of this drink. Whether you’re an expert or just getting started, there’s a type of sake out there that you’re sure to enjoy!

Published on  Updated on