What is sake?
Sake (pronounced “sah-kee”) is the national drink of Japan and an indispensable part of the Japanese meal. It consists of fermented short-grain japonica rice, koji (yeast made from rice) and water.
Sake has probably been around for thirteen hundred years; the first reference occurs in a book from the year 713 which mentions a drink made from rice.
There are many categories and formats of sake. There are premium and non-premium sakes, for example, and there is a classification that depends on the degree to which the rice grains are polished. Sakes can also be classified according to taste and drinking temperature. Kunshu sake (aromatic sake) should be drunk between 8 and 15 ° C. Soshu sake (refreshing sake), the most popular sake in Japan, is rather light and is coolest drunk, at 5 to 10 ° C. Full junshu (rich sake) is the most traditional sake and is drunk hot, between 15 and 18 ° C. The most expensive and rare is jukushu sake (full-bodied sake), full and deep in taste and at its best between 15 to 25 ° C.
Sake can be unfiltered, sparkling or undiluted, with a higher alcohol percentage. The normal alcohol percentage is around 15%. There are also flavoured sakes: plum for example, and sake that is aged in French oak barrels. The world of sake is extremely diverse!
The Japanese take sake at least as seriously as the French take their wine and the Belgians take their beer. It shouldn’t surprise you that there are sake sommeliers, as well as world championships for these sake sommeliers.
Did you know...
The word sake is also the term used for alcoholic drinks in general. Since the introduction of other (often foreign) alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine, sake is also called seishu or nihonshu to avoid confusion.
How to make sake
The short-grain Japanese rice is milled, washed and steamed. Part of this rice is made into the koji (rice yeast), which is mixed with the rest of the steamed rice and water. The whole is allowed to ferment, rice, koji and water are mixed through again and the resulting drink is filtered.
Sake is brewed in kurabito (sake breweries) by toji or brewers. There are about sixteen hundred sake breweries in Japan.
How to drink sake
Japanese drink sake with their food, but also as a drink with a salty snack. It is served both at home and in restaurants or bars from a tokkuri (decanting bottle) with a capacity of 180, 360 or 720 millilitres. You pour the sake into a small cup, a sakazuki, and then sip the drink.
Sake also tastes great with Chinese dishes. Do you find sake too intense? The Americans have found a solution: the sake bomb. Pour yourself a Japanese beer, with a shot of sake next to it. Drop the shot of sake in the beer and enjoy.