Updated: March 27, 2020
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7 Things You Need To Know About Sake (Japanese Rice Wine)

This article will answer some of the general questions related to Japanese sake.

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Discover Sake in Japan!

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Before we answer the 7 most common questions about sake (according to Google search data), here are some sake tasting tours that are worth the try if you are in Japan. They're really fun because they're conducted by locals, and they can be booked on the same day.

Q1: What Is Sake?

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Let's start with the basics. What is sake anyway? Well, simply put, it's a Japanese traditional alcohol made from fermented rice. In Japanese, it's called 'Nihonshu' 日本酒, which literally translates to 'Japan's alcohol.'

In order to make good-quality Japanese sake, good water is essential, rice, koji mold (a filamentous fungus also used to make miso), and some yeast to ferment.

Once it's fermented, only the clear upper part of the whole resulting substance is bottled. Generally, Japanese sake has an alcohol content of around 15 percent (the strongest ones can go up to 17 percent).

Sake is made in breweries in virtually all regions of Japan but some areas such as Niigata, Fukui, and Aomori, where rice is known for its good quality, are also famous for both their Japanese sake.

Q2: Why Do Japanese Drink Sake?

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It still isn't clear when people in Japan started to make rice wines, but probably as rice agriculture became common across Japan nearly 2000 years ago.

Since Japanese people were familiar with eating rice, they started to drink some alcohol made from rice. Naturally, because sake is made from rice, it goes wonderfully well with any kind of rice dish and also most 'washoku' (traditional Japanese) cuisine.

Q3: What Is The Best Sake Brand?

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There are so many varieties of sake brands that it is very difficult to only choose one brand as the best sake. It really depends on the type of taste you are aiming for.

Perhaps if we do have to choose one, then Dassai(獺祭), a sake brand originally made in Yamaguchi, is always one of the top-ranked sake brands in Japan. Its characteristics are its slight sweetness and fruitiness. It has an alcohol content is about 16 percent. You can buy it online or at liquor shops for around ¥5,000 for 1.8L.

To know more about some popular sake brands click the link below.

Q4: Can Sake Be Used For Cooking?

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Absolutely! Just like cooking wines, you can use your Japanese sake for cooking. There are even some cheap ones sold at Japanese supermarkets that are specifically for cooking. Sake can be used for almost any kind of Japanese dish. Just pour in some sake if you would like to add a deeper flavor to your food.

Q5: Is Sake Good For Your Health?

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There are some health benefits to drinking Japanese sake in moderation. Sake reduces the risk of having cancer, helps prevent osteoporosis and diabetes, can help to reduce high blood pressure, and even makes your skin clearer because it reduces the production of melanin so sunspots become less visible.

Some skincare products in Japan even contain some sake acids, which is said to enhance the appearance of the skin when used topically.

Q6: How Do You Drink Sake, Hot Or Cold?

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When you drink sake the traditional Japanese way, you need to prepare a sake set. A sake set normally consists of a 'tokkuri' (the bottle-like product in the right ) and an 'ochoko' (the small shot glass-looking cup on the left). Since the taste of sake changes with the temperature, filling half of the tokkuri is a fine amount to enjoy your sake.

There are basically two different ways to enjoy your sake: 'hiya' and 'atsukan.' Hiya means cold style for which you refrigerate not only the sake but also the tokkuri and the ochoko. On the other hand, atuskan is a heated style, for which you heat the sake in a tokkuri placed in hot water. Some sakes are better drunk hiya style, others are better atsukan style, and some are excellent done both ways. What's interesting is that the taste and smell may change drastically depending on the temperature the sake is served. You might want to experience with both to see which one you prefer.

Q7: How Is Sake Compared To Wine?

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Wine and sake are both fermented alcohols with an alcohol percentage of around 15 percent, so in a way, they're a bit similar.

One difference is in their sweetness. Contrary to what many people believe, Japanese sake is sweeter than wine. And as such, sake also has more calories than wine. A glass of sake of 100 grams contains 103 calories whereas wine has about 83 calories for the same amount.
Nancy
Quite sure I'm a Ramen freak. Almost up to 200ramens in 2017. Not only ramens but also love to eat around and drink around.

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