Japanese Sake: What You Need to Know

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Japanese Sake: What You Need to Know


What is Sake?

Sake refers to the Japanese rice wine produced during a brewing process in which rice is fermented and the starches get converted into sugar, and then alcohol. Sake usually has an alcohol content from 14% to 16%. However, the “genshu” variety of sake may have a higher alcohol content, ranging from 18% to 20%.

In Japanese, the term “sake” addresses all alcoholic beverages; if you want to refer to the Japanese rice wine -Sake in this article (what we know in the west), you should use “nihonshu”.

Different Types of Sake

There is a variety of different sake available. To name a few, they are:

Amazake – a traditional, sweet sake with low alcohol content.

Genshu – an undiluted sake that has no added water. The alcohol content ranges from 18% to 20%. (For your information: Most sake is diluted with water so that its alcohol content is down to 14%  to 16%.)

Jizake – the locally micro-brewed sake.

Koshu – the aged sake that has a yellow hue and a sweet taste – almost honey-like.

Kuroshu – the type of sake made of brown rice, or unpolished rice. Its flavor resembles Chinese rice wine.

Muroka – an unfiltered sake that has a clear color and a stronger flavor and aroma. (FYI: Filtered sakes have milder flavor and aroma since filtration tends to dilute them both.)

Namazake – an unpasteurized sake that needs refrigerated to store.

Nigorizake (Nigori Sake) – This type of sake is usually served chilled in Japanese restaurants in the west. This is an unfiltered sake that has a cloudy color with quite a bit of sediment. Before serving, it is often shaken well.

Shiboritate – a type of sake that hasn’t completed the traditional brewing time of 9-12 months. As a result, this sake is more acidic.

Taruzake – this sake is aged and stored in wooden casks or barrels. As such, it carries a strong wood-like flavor. People use Taruzake at special events such as ceremonies or building inaugurations.

Teiseihakushu – a speciality sake that has a stronger rice flavor due to the higher rice polishing ratio. To produce this sake, people polish the rice grains much less than what they usually do when producing traditional sake.

Drinking and Cooking Sake

Drinking and cooking sakes are produced similarly. However, for cooking sake, people use rice with a higher polishing ratio to get a bolder rice flavor. Cooking sake often has a lower alcohol level together with an added content of salt.

When Do You Drink Sake?

Japanese people enjoy sake during appetizers or izakaya-style dining. For example, they take sips of sake while eating sashimi or such light dishes. Sake is not paired with food as part of a large meal.

Sake is associated with formal or important occasions such as ceremonies, weddings, major celebratory events, etc. A sake ceremony at a wedding represents the unity of two families. In the modern context, sake is used to mix delicious cocktails such as sake mojito or sake gimlet.


8 Best Tips for Drinking Sake https://www.thespruceeats.com/best-tips-for-drinking-sake-2031154 Accessed July 17, 2019