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Sake Basics

What is sake?

Sake (or nihonshu as it is called in Japan) is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice. The main ingredients are rice, water, koji, and yeast.  Sake is usually non-carbonated, but recently some sparkling sakes are new trend in the sake world.  Sake is commonly referred to as “rice wine”, but most experts agree that it not a fair comparison since they are very different drinks.


Sake can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.  It can be served cold, chilled, room temperature, warm, and hot.  Each sake has its own flavor profile it may be made to be served at certain temperatures.

Sake Ingredients

RICE - This is where the starches for the alcohol come from.  Sake rice is different from the rice you would eat.  Sake rice is typically a bigger grain that table rice and has a starchy center.  Sake rice arrives to the brewers unmilled.  The brewery will determine how much of the rice to mill depending the type of rice and the type of sake they want to make.


WATER - This is self-explanatory.  The thing to remember is the mineral composition of the water will affect the flavor profile of the sake. 


KOJI MOLD – Koji mold is spread on some steamed rice that is temperature and humidity controlled. The rice with the cultivated mold is no referred to as koji.  The purpose of the koji is to take the starches in the rice and converts it to sugar (glucose). The type of koji will also affect the flavor profile of the sake.


YEAST- The yeast takes the glucose made from the koji and converts it into the alcohol.  The type of yeast will also affect the flavor profile of the sake.

BREWERS ALCOHOL-  This is distilled alchohol that is added during the production process. It does not give the sake a higher ABV, but it will effect the way it tastes (not necessarily in a bad way). 

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