Sake, or saké, is a Japanese drink containing alcohol. In Japanese, the word “sake” generally refers to any alcohol-based drink. The liquor that is referred to in English as “sake” is called nihonshu (日本酒, “Japanese liquor”) in Japanese.
Sake is often thought of as “rice wine,” however the process of making this liquor is more similar to that of brewing beer. Grains of rice (the starch) are converted to sugar and to alcohol simultaneously. This differs from brewing beer, which converts starch to sugar and, in a separate step, sugar to alcohol. Sake contains approximately 15% alcohol when served from a bottle. (Before bottling, the undiluted sake is closer to 20% alcohol.) For reference, wine typically hovers around 12% and beer close to 6%, depending on the type of wine or beer.
The clearest definition of the ascending grades of sake are:
- Junmai are made with rice that has been “polished” (as the industry puts it), or milled, to remove at least the outer 30% of the original size of the grains.
- Junmai Ginjo is made with rice that has been “polished” or milled, to remove at least the outer 40% of the original size of the grains.
- Junmai Daiginjo is the best grade of sake. This type of sake is made with rice that has been “polished” or milled, to remove at least the outer 50% of the original size of the grains.
Note: The term Nigori sake means the sake is unfiltered.
- October 1 is the official Sake Day (日本酒の日) of Japan.
- The exact origin is unclear, but sake seems to have been first produced in the 700s A.D.
- Over the years, sake has been used in religious ceremonies, special festivals and for pure enjoyment.
- Your Sushi House server will be happy to help you choose selections that pair well with your favorite sushi!