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5 Quick Things You Should Know About the Japanese Sake

Walking Tours in Tokyo
Sake barrels | Image Courtesy of davidgsteadman/Flickr

No Japan trip is ever complete without having a taste of the alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice called sake (pronounced "sah-keh"). Unlike traditional wine, sake is brewed differently. Thus, it has a lighter color, is noncarbonated, and has a sweet flavor. You'd be surprised to know that it contains up to 18% alcohol.

If you're a beginner hoping to get a little sake tasting in Tokyo, here's are quick things to know about their famous drink:

The taste depends on the process and ingredients

To help you understand why the drinks differ from one another, it's because of two things: polishing and junmai. Sake undergoes polishing (wherein the outer layer of the rice kernel is removed to bring out the starchy flavor) to about 30 to 70 percent. The more it's polished, the higher its classification. However, it doesn't guarantee that it tastes better. It would still depend on the quality ingredients and what suits your taste.

Meanwhile, if the bottle of sake contains junmai ("pure rice" in Japanese), this means that the sake has no additives or brewers alcohol. But again, if it doesn't contain any, that doesn't mean that the drink is now less inferior. The taste of sake depends on these two things, type of rice, brewing and filtering processes, and more.

It's best served slightly chilled

While is there no specific rule on whether you should drink it warm or cold, it depends on one's preferences. Some claim to love the drink when it's warm while others argue that they love the cold version of it. But, due to the advancement in brewing technology, some sake flavors are said to be destroyed by heat while serving it too cold doesn't always guarantee a great taste. Thus, premium sake is now in the middle — being served slightly chilled.

Never leave your sake glass empty... unless you want more

As to drinking norms in the Japanese culture, the host is obliged to refill your drink once your glass has been emptied. So, if you don't want another shot or feeling a bit tipsy already, leave a bit of sake in your cup.

Additionally, in their culture, there are strict etiquette rules to follow. For instance, the host is always in charge of filling in those cups with sake. And, there are also rules on pouring and receiving depending on one's status. 

You can definitely pair it with food

For the Japanese, it's such a versatile beverage that it goes well with different kinds of food. While it's often paired with sashimi and sushi, it would depend on the processes involved and its ingredients. Different types of sake can complement well with tempura, vegetable dishes, and even the crowd favorite ramen. For entry-level sake such as the suijin, it can even be paired with pork belly or rib-eye steak.

There's a sparkling and aged sake

Take note that sparkling sake is not the same as sparkling wine. It has lower alcohol content and has a nice sweet taste with a sour touch — making it easier to drink as compared with the normal sake.You'll find out that it's becoming more popular among females and beginners.

While it's common for sake to be consumed as soon as possible for better taste, some sake drinks are also being aged in wooden barrels for more than 3 years. This results in a richer and more fragrant flavor, with aged sake drinkers comparing it to the Chinese Shaoxing wine. Some people claim to enjoy it more because it's said to lessen your chances of getting hangovers.

To learn more about the Japanese sake, take a free walking tour to Meiju Jingu Shrine and discover its connection between the gods and the Japanese. Get your questions answered and find out more secrets by joining one of Tokyo's walking tours.

Ronica is a content marketer and writer who loves books and photography. She likes to discover new dishes, places, and try a lot of things. She dreams of having her own business someday but her grandest dream is to travel the world.


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