Sake is similar to Beer and Wine!!

Have you tasted Japanese Sake before? What is your image of Japanese Sake? I’ve heard that some people believe that Japanese sake is strong and dry that keeps people away from trying Japanese sake. However, there is a variety of flavors and you will find your favorite sake when you know better about Japanese sake.

■What is Japanese Sake?

Japanese Sake is alcohol drink made from rice and people sometimes call it rice wine. Japanese sake(16%) contains higher alcohol percentage than beer (6%) and wine(14%).

Many people think sake is just dry but there are a lot of flavors like wine; dry, rich, crispy, sweet or fruity. In addition, there are sparkling sake which are similar to sparkling wine. You can enjoy the pairing of sake and food like wine. Sake sommeliers will show you the best way to enjoy food and sake.

Also, sake, wine and beer are all fermented beverages. During the fermentation, wine goes only one step while beer and sake take two steps to complete, which means sake and beer are in the same category.

In other words, Japanese sake flavor is similar to wine but the process is similar to beer.

If you like beer or wine, you would love Japanese sake!!


■How to enjoy Japanese Sake?

When you go to Japanese bars or restaurants, you would hear that the people say “Kanpai.”

“Kanpai” means “Cheers” in Japanese. No matter what the drink is, people tend to say “Kanpai” to start the dinner.

Traditionally, people drink Japanese sake with a small cup called “ochoko.” It looks like a shot glass. “Ochoko” is usually comes with “tokkuri” carafe. Why people drink sake with such a tiny cup? One of the reasons is that it helps better communication. To fill and refill each other’s cup is a Japanese custom which means that drinking sake with a small cup and fill each other’s cup enhances social interaction.

You might know a “masu” cup usually made of wood. You can drink sake from the masu cup directly but there is another interesting way to drink. In some bars, they put a small glass inside a masu cup and pour sake into the small glass until sake spilling from the glass. Don’t worry spilling sake goes into the masu cup so you never waste sake. It is a service that shows how generous the bar is.

Also, there are many types of cups that you enjoy sake. You may enjoy not only the taste but also the cups when you drink sake.


■Japanese mix Beer and Sake?

The answer is “No.” When I work for a Japanese restaurant in the U.S, some people asked me if we serve “Sake bomb.” It is a drink that placing sake on a beer glass with using chopsticks and dropping off the sake cup into the beer. Actually, sake bomb is not an authentic way to drink sake because it reminds people of the atomic bombings during the world war. I would like you to know the fact and try not to do the game, please. It doesn’t mean you can’t drink beer and sake at the same time but it would be better if you comprehend the culture. Thank you.

■Cold sake? or Hot Sake?

You would find that Japanese sake has a variety of flavors. You also enjoy sake at different temperature which makes sake unique. It is common that beer and white wine are cold drinks and red wine are good when it is at room temperature. On the other hand, you can enjoy cold sake, hot sake and sake at room temperature. Especially, hot sake is popular during winter. Some sake are good when it is cold while others are good when it is hot. It depends on sake which temperature is the best to taste sake.

■How to find your favorite sake?

Even one name sake has different kinds of flavors. There are 2 keywords to differentiate the flavor; the one is “junmai” and the other one is “rice polishing ratio.”   

First, the category is called “junmai.” which means “pure-rice” in Japanese. Originally, Sake is a fermented drink  made from rice only but some Japanese sake are added extra alcohol in the process of making sake in order to enhance its aroma. The sake without extra alcohol is called “junmai”.

The second point is “rice polishing ratio”, the portion of the grain is polished away when making Japanese Sake. In some sake bottles, the ratio is on the label by using %, and lower number is better. (10%= they polish away 90% of the rice so it means the sake use the center of the rice.) These Sake that use permitted ingredients like rice, koji, or water classified as Tokutei Meisyosyu(Special designated grade). On the other hand, there are Sake classified as Futsushu (ordinary sake), which contains higher volume of alcohol or other additives. It doesn’t mean that Futsushu is bad. I just  want you to know it is different from premium grade sake.

You need to remember these features as well as the name of sake when you find your favorite sake.


Now, it’s time to find your favorite sake! Kanpai!!