Japan’s national drink sake has played a central role in Japanese life and culture for the past 2,000 years. Sake is sometimes referred to as “rice wine” but the brewing process is more similar to beer, converting starch to sugar for the fermentation process. Undiluted sake contains 18%–20% ABV (although this is often lowered to about 15% by adding water prior to bottling).
The earliest reference to alcohol in Japan is recorded in the Book of Wei in the Records of the Three Kingdoms, a 3rd century Chinese text. Sake is more specifically referred to in the Kojiki, Japan’s first written history, which was compiled in 712 AD.
Once found only in Japanese restaurants outside its native land, sake is now served in discerning shops and restaurants of all types. As sake becomes more popular, customers are looking for guidance on how to choose, serve and enjoy sake.
Sake is such an integral part of Japanese cuisine and heritage that developing an appreciation of it will add to anyone’s understanding of Japanese history, culture and society.