5 Things You Didn’t Know About Sake
As Japanese cuisine becomes more popular so too does sake. Exports of sake to countries around the world continue to reach record levels. You may already be familiar with alcoholic beverages like beer and wine. But how much do you know about sake?
Let’s start with the basics. Sake is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice and can be served cold or hot. As the national beverage of Japan, sake plays a major role in Japanese culture. It is commonly served during formal ceremonies and other special occasions. Sake is poured out of tall porcelain flasks known as “tokkuri” and into small ceramic cups known as “ochoko”. Let’s look at other interesting facts about sake you probably didn’t know.
Sake is More Like Beer
Sake is widely referred to as rice wine. But it’s actually more like beer because it undergoes a similar brewing process. Beer is brewed by fermenting the sugars of barley and other grains like wheat and rye. Sake is brewed in a similar manner but made by fermenting the sugars of rice. Sake is often referred to as wine is because it has an alcohol content that is closer to wine than beer. The alcohol content of sake is about 15% which puts it higher than beer (5%) and wine (12%) but not quite as high as hard liqueur-like whiskey.
Sake Has Origins in China
Sake may be the national beverage of Japan but its origins can be traced back to China thousands of years ago. The process wasn’t as refined as it is today though – Villagers would chew rice and nuts, and spit the contents into a communal tub which would start the fermentation process from the enzymes in saliva. The process was abandoned after the discovery of yeast and a mould enzyme called koji.
Sake is Illegal to Home-Brew in Japan
Brewing alcoholic beverages like beer is a popular hobby and there are even home kits that make the process easier. But brewing sake at home is actually illegal without a license. During the 20th century, improvements in brewing technology led to a dramatic increase in the production of sake. Sake soon accounted for a staggering 30% of the country’s entire tax revenue. Home-brewed alcohol couldn’t be taxed so the practice was banned altogether.
Sake Pairs Well With Japanese Food
The complex flavour profile of sake and its low acidity means that it is more delicately balanced than other alcoholic beverages like wine. These characteristics make sake pair well with various dishes especially teppanyaki cuisine. A sake that we recommend is the Gozenshu Bodaimoto which you can get directly from our online store.
Sake’s Price is Determined by the Level of Polishing
“Polishing” is an important part of the sake making process and refers to milling rice to remove the husk and bran layers. The more polishing the rice undergoes, the more refined it tastes but also the higher the price point. There are three levels of rice polishing: Junmai (70%), Ginjo (60%), and Daiginjo (50%). The percentage refers to the amount of rice that is left over after polishing.
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