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Amazake means “sweet sake,” and while it is a relative of sake in a way, it’s not the same thing. There are two kinds of amazake: lower in alcohol and completely non-alcoholic.

Whether it contains alcohol or not depends on the production process. Non-alcoholic amazake is made by adding the koji mold to rice, while the low-alcohol type is made with sake lees — the leftover components of the sake production process — and sugar. 

Regardless, the end result is a drink that’s creamier, thicker, and sweeter than sake but with a subtle sake aroma. 

As you might guess, the amazake made with koji rice is far more nutritious. The brief period of fermentation causes the starch to become sweeter while also developing other health benefits such as vitamins B, fiber, and folic acid. This method also makes this style of amazake related to soy sauce, miso, mirin, sake, and other fermented foods that are pillars of Japanese cuisine. 

Along with being enjoyed as a beverage, amazake can also be used as a sweetener or an ingredient in other dishes.