Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from rice. It is made through a brewing process similar to beer, and has a higher alcohol content, around 18 - 20%% alcohol which even when diluted still reach around 15%% alcohol.
Sake is served chilled, at room temperature, or heated. It all depends on the preference of the drinker. Sake can also be used as a mixer for cocktails, but they are most used for ceremonial use like the Shinto purification rituals.
There are two basic types of sake: futsū-shu (普通酒) and tokutei meishō-shu (特定名称酒). Futsū-shu, "ordinary sake," is the equivalent of table wine and accounts for the majority of sake produced. Tokutei meishō-shu, "special designation sake," refers to premium sakes distinguished by the degree to which the rice is polished and the added percentage of brewer's alcohol or the absence of such additives.
Sake is also referred to in English as rice wine. However, unlike true wine, in which alcohol is produced by fermenting the sugar naturally present in fruit, sake is made through a brewing process more like that of beer. To make beer or sake, the sugar needed to produce alcohol must first be converted from starch. But the brewing process for sake differs from beer brewing as well, notably in that for beer, the conversion of starch to sugar and sugar to alcohol occurs in two discrete steps, but with sake they occur simultaneously. Additionally, alcohol content also differs between sake, wine, and beer. Wine generally contains 9–16% alcohol and most beer is 3–9%, whereas undiluted sake is 18–20% alcohol, although this is often lowered to around 15% by diluting the sake with water prior to bottling.
Selecting and Buying
2. The grains of high-grade Sake-making rice are larger than those of ordinary rice and contain a white opaque core in the center that carries solely starch.
3. By polishing a grain of high-grade Sake-making rice down to less than half of the original covering, we can remove the protein and fat from outside the white core. The result is Junmai-Dai-Ginjo Sake (purely rice-based refined Sake), with an aromatic flavor, yet without the fatty acid that causes a hangover after drinking.
4. Ordinary rice grains do not contain this pure white core in the center. Protein and fat are spread throughout the grain, therefore even a high degree of polishing cannot effectively remove the protein and fat.
5. Normally the rice grains used in Japanese Sake are polished to remove only about 27% of the original covering, while the polishing process used in TAMANOHIKARI carries away 55% of the outer cover. In addition, many of ordinary Japanese Sake carry an additive of Treacle Alcohol, not found inTAMANOHIKARI.
Preparation and Use
There are also, of course, rules and laws that strictly define what Sake is. Within these laws, Sake is officially known as "Seishu" and is defined as one of the following.
1. Fermented from rice, rice-koji (the mold used to convert the starch in rice into fermentable sugars), and water, and then pressed through a mesh (to strain away the solids and yield a clear beverage).
2. Fermented from rice, water, Sake-Kasu (the lees that remain after pressing Sake; these can still contain fermentable elements), rice-koji, and anything else accepted by law, and then pressed through a mesh.
3. Sake to which Kasu has been added, and then passed through a mesh.
In Japan sake is served chilled, at room temperature, or heated, depending on the preference of the drinker, the quality of the sake, and the season. Typically, hot sake is a winter drink, and high-grade sake is not drunk hot, because the flavors and aromas will be lost. This masking of flavor is the reason that low-quality sake is often served hot.
Sake is usually drunk from small cups called choko and poured into the choko from ceramic flasks called tokkuri. Saucer-like cups called sakazuki are also used, most commonly at weddings and other ceremonial occasions. Recently, footed glasses made specifically for premium sake have also come into use.
Another traditional cup is the masu, a box usually made of hinoki or sugi, which was originally used for measuring rice. In some Japanese restaurants, as a show of generosity, the server may put a glass inside the masu or put the masu on a saucer and pour until sake overflows and fills both containers.
Conserving and Storing
In general, it is best to keep sake refrigerated in a cool or dark room, as prolonged exposure to heat or direct light will lead to spoilage. Sake stored at room temperature is best consumed within a few months after purchase.
After opening the bottle of sake, it is best consumed within 2 or 3 hours. It is possible to store in the refrigerator, but it is recommended to finish the sake within 2 days. This is because once premium sake is opened, it begins to oxidize which affects the taste. If the sake is kept in the refrigerator for more than 3 days, it will lose its "best" flavor. However, this does not mean it should be disposed of if not consumed. Generally, sake can keep very well and still taste just fine after weeks in the fridge. How long a sake will remain drinkable depends on the actual product itself, and whether it is sealed with a wine vacuum top.