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Sake (also spelled saké or saki) is the Japanese national liquor and one of the instantly recognizable symbols of Japan in the West. It is commonly referred to as the ‘rice wine’ in the Western countries, although sake is more similar to beer, as both drinks are made through brewing process.

Nigori Sake

The earliest reference to sake dates from the 3rd century AD, but the origins of sake are unknown. What is known, however, is that sake was a popular drink in the 16th century feudal Japan and that it was introduced to the European societies in the 18th century by Isaac Titsingh, along time Dutch East India Company senior official.

Sake is made of the special kind of rice called ‘shuzō kōtekimai‘ in Japan. The process of rice picking, polishing, brewing and bottling is very complex and rigid. Water is the second most important ingredient of sake and it is carefully and rigidly examined for quality and chemical substances.

Sake may be served cold or hot, depending on the season and drinker’s taste, usually straight and drunk from the special sake glasses called ‘choko. There are many varieties of sake, but the two main sake categories are ‘Futsū-shu’ or ‘Classic sake’ and Tokutei meishō-shu’ or ‘Premium sake’. Most of the sakes belong to the classic category, while premium sakes are special sakes brewed from the best rice and the purest water, in accordance with the most rigid rules of sake brewing.

Although sake is traditionally served straight, there are also many sake-based cocktails, such as tamagozake, saketinis, nogasake, or the sake bomb. Sake also comes in many flavor notes, including herbs, spices, apples, chocolate etc.

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