Sake is a traditional Japanese beverage made from rice. The Japanese call it “Nihonshu” or “Japanese Sake.” In English sake is often describe as a rice wine despite the fact that its production is more similar to that of beer. Sake is made by the multiple parallel fermentation of polished rice. Undiluted sake contains 18-20 % alcohol. Sometimes the sake is diluted with water. Such sake has 15% alcohol.

cup of sake
Sake – traditional Japanese beverage

Sake is made by sake brewer or “toji.” This job has very high status in the Japanese society. There are two basic types of sake - “futsu-shu” and “tokutei meisho-shu.” Futsu-shu or “ordinary sake” is similar to table wine. Most sake is of this quality. High quality sake is the tokutei meisho-shu or "special designation sake.” Types of this sake are the Honjozo-shu, Junmai-shu and Ginjo-shu. They differ according to the degree to which the rice is polished and the added percentage of brewer's alcohol or the absence of such additives.

Depending on the person who drinks it and the time of year, sake can be served chilled, at room temperature or heated. Sake is drunk from small traditional cups called “choko”. Sake is poured from a ceramic flask called “tokkuri”. On special occasions like for example weddings sake is drank from a cup similar to a saucer. This cup is called “sakazuki”. It is interesting to know that sake can be used as part of cocktails like “tamagozake”, “saketinis”, “nogasake” or the “sake bomb”.

Sake is kept in cool and dark room. There is an opinion stating that it is the best to drink a bottle of opened sake within some 3 hours. Opened bottle of sake can be kept in the refrigerator between 3 days and few weeks. Everything depends on the quality of sake in the bottle. Bottle has to be sealed well too.

Sake is used in Shinto purification rituals. This special sake is called “Omiki” or “Miki”. During different festivities wooden casks with sake are opened in a ritual called “kagami biraki”. This sake is called “iwai-zake” or “celebration sake”. Special type of iwai-zake is called “toso”. It is made on the New Year by putting Chinese powdered medicine called “tososan” into sake.