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Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

You’ve likely had sake before and thus don’t need any introduction. But if not, just know that sake could make the claim to be Japan’s most iconic beverage.

Sake is often called a rice wine, but its fermentation process makes it more akin to a rice beer. Unlike wines, which ferment sugars naturally present in the base ingredient, the “beer-y” process means that the starch of the rice must first convert to sugar before then being turned into alcohol. Whether you want to call it a wine or beer, the end result is a rice-based boozy drink that’s delicious.

Usually ranging from 15%-20% ABV, sake can be drunk hot or cold. Typically higher quality sake is only served cold, however, as the common wisdom is that serving it hot overpowers the subtleties and complex flavors present in high quality sake. The quality of sake is determined by how much the rice is polished prior to fermentation; the more polished, the higher quality the resulting sake and more refined the taste.

Aside from being drunk straight, sake can also be used in cocktails or cooking. Another great thing about sake is that the production process leaves behind a byproduct called sake kasu which is a lovely ingredient to cook with.

You can find a whole variety of sake at Uwajimaya in our alcoholic beverages section.

Types of Sake

Junmai means “pure rice” as it has no alcohol added to it.  The rice used to make Junmai is polished to 70% of it’s original size before brewing.  This sake is full bodied and slightly acidic.

Similar to Junmai except small amounts of distilled alcohol is added.  Honjozo is slightly sweeter than Junmai.

The rice used is polished to at least 60% of it’s original. Ginjo has a more delicate flavor and tends to be sweeter than other sakes.

This is the highest grade of sake.  It uses grains of rice where 50% of the original grain is milled away to only leave the purest elements.  This sake is lighter and more fragrant.

Nigorizake is unfiltered or partially filtered sake that has a milky white appearance. Nigorizake is generally sweeter than other sake.