Sake お酒

The famous Japanese alcohol

Sake is not only one of the most consumed drinks in Japan, but also one of the oldest. From religious rites to gastronomy, sake is a key element of Japanese culture.

80% water, 20% rice

The manufacture of sake features 3 main principles: the know-how (waza), the quality of the water (mizu) and the quality of the rice (kome). The purity of the spring water used is essential, as is the degree of polishing of the rice (40% minimum). The more polished the rice, the better the quality of the sake. After polishing, the rice is washed, soaked, then steamed. The fermentation then lasts about a month.

The koji-kin - the fungus that releases an enzyme, yeast, and lactic acid are gradually added to the rice by the toji, the brewmaster. The starch is then transformed into sugar, then into alcohol. Once filtered and pasteurised, the sake is bottled, and is ready to be consumed within one year of production, after several months of ageing. Sake contains, on average, between 14 and 17% of alcohol.

Sake bottles from Niigata region

Sake from Niigata region

Indy DecoPon

A glass of sake

A glass of sake


Rice, not region

Here's another way sake is different from wine: it doesn't belong to a particular region. Its refinement is based more on rice, selected from about fifty varieties such as Yamada-nishiki (Hyogo Prefecture), Omachi (prefectures of Okayama and Hiroshima), Miyama-nishiki (Nagano Prefecture) or Gohyakuman-goku (Niigata Prefecture). The most famous breweries (kura) are located near sources of pure water: near Mount Fuji, Saijo, near Hiroshima, or in the district of Nada, in Kobe. This is where you can visit the Hakutsuru Brewery Museum.

Shuki, the Saki Service

Shuki, the sake service

motoshi ohmori

The ritual of tasting

Sake is served in a shuki, consisting of a ceramic flask and cups (or more rarely glass, bamboo or wood). Take note - you should never serve yourself! Pour sake in the cups of your guests - holding the tokkuri (flask) with both hands - but wait for them to serve you. Note that sake is one of the few alcohols that can be enjoyed cold (between 8 and 12°c) or hot (between 36 and 50°c). The recommended drinking temperature is often noted on the bottle.

In the kitchen

Finally, sake is also used in cooking, along with mirin (a sweet rice alcohol, used especially in yakitori sauce). Cooking sake (packaged in plastic bottles or cartons) is used in particular to make sauces and marinades.

Read also: Asako Watanabe, the only woman producing sake in Gifu

Sake Brewery Hirase

Sake Brewery Hirase.


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